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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"

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February 2017


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (28.2.17)
At the behest of the EU Greece is to install a "coastal surveillance system covering the whole sea border between Greece and Turkey"

The latest report from the Hellenic delegation to the Council of the European Union on "serious" deficiencies in the application of the Schengen acquis envisages the construction of a: "National Integrated Maritime Surveillance System (NIMSS)":

See: Schengen evaluation of Greece - 3rd Follow-up report on the implementation of the Action Plan on addressing the "serious" deficiencies identified in the 2015 evaluation on the application of the Schengen acquis in the field of management of the external borders (LIMITE doc no: 6311-17, pdf)

EU tells France: Take "immediate measures" to identify and deport migrants living in and around Calais: Commission: Proposal for a Council Implementing Decision setting out a recommendation on addressing the deficiencies identified in the 2016 evaluation of France (Pas-de-Calais) on the application of the Schengen acquis in the field of return (Commission LIMITE doc no: 26-17, pdf)

Are You Syrious (27.2.17, link):

Push them back

"We are witnessing a continuous silent game of pushbacks from Europe to refugees’ so-called “safe” home countries. Since certain destination countries such as Germany have announced the start of new deportations, the Greek asylum system is under more pressure. People are pushed back to Greece, the Greek Government is working on cleaning up the islands and speeding up deportations to Turkey, where detention centers often have very limited or no access to legal or medical support and overall living conditions are bad, and from Turkey they are more easily deported back to their countries of origin. European countries are updating their policies on asylum procedures, reception conditions, detention of asylum seekers and integration. Austria is now granting the right of residence to refugees for three years, instead of the previous indefinite right of residence...."

Lesvos - arrests and deportations

"No Borders Kitchen issued a statement about police arrests in squats, targeting specific nationalities (that are very unlikely to be granted asylum). Following the European Commission report on the EU-Turkey deal (which says that 1,187 irregular migrants were returned from Greece to Turkey in the course of 2016 ) the Greek government wishes to speed up deportations from the islands"

SWITZERLAND: Transfers from Switzerland to Italy under Dublin regulations

"Every year Switzerland sends thousands of immigrants back to Italy since the Dublin accords call for asylum seekers to be handled by the first European country where they arrive or land, most often Italy and Greece. What is surprising is that the vast majority of the cases Switzerland wanted to refer to Italy were immigrants who were never registered (didn’t leave fingerprints) there. Under Dublin people can be transferred to another country even if they weren’t registered if proven they were previously there (ie. with a train ticket, receipts or the asylum seeker’s own statement), Swiss Info reports."

Senior Arab diplomat derides EU migrant discourse (euractiv, link):

"A distinguished Arab diplomat remarked that EU politicians and think tank representatives did not make use of keywords such as “Iraq” or “Islam” while discussing the Union’s relations with its neighbours and the refugee crisis for several hours.

Former UN Special Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi told an audience in Malta on Monday (27 February) to look at the root causes of the unprecedented refugee crisis, which he said was triggered by destructive Western policies."

Migrant children endure horrors in Libya and Italy (euobserver, link):

"The UN's children's fund, Unicef, has said minors face shocking abuse in Libya and risk vanishing into crime and prostitution in Europe.

The Unicef report, out on Tuesday (28 February), said more and more children are arriving in Italy alone and required better protection to prevent them falling into the hands of criminals."

NGO rescues off Libya encourage traffickers, says EU borders chief (Guardian, link): "Head of Frontex calls for rescue operations in Med to be re-evaluated and says NGOs work ineffectively with security agencies."

See: Statewatch: EU agencies and officials accuse NGOs of assisting people smugglers off Libyan coast (16.12.16)

EU urged to end cooperation with Sudan after refugees whipped and deported (Guardian, link)

"MEP calls for inquiry as Ethiopian and Eritrean asylum seekers receive 40 lashes and $800 fines, while activists warn EU migration aid is emboldening Sudan.... The MEP Barbara Lochbihler, vice-chair of the European parliament’s sub-committee on human rights, said the EU should launch an inquiry. “The EU must voice clear criticism on the recent incidents, conduct a thorough investigation, try and help the people concerned, and draw the necessary conclusion: if projects such as Better Migration Management carry the risk for the EU to become complicit in human rights abuses, which I believe to be true, we should pull out immediately.”"

Greece: Migrants rescued off Kythira to be transferred to Piraeus (ekathimerini.com, link):

"A group of 41 undocumented migrants who were rescued off the coast of Kythira on Monday were to be relocated to Piraeus, authorities said on Tuesday."

Swedish asylum shelter in Vanersborg hit by blaze (BBC News, link)


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (27.2.17)
EU: Visa waiver rules amended to allow suspension if third countries fail to cooperate on readmission

"On 27 February 2017, the Council adopted a regulation to revise the suspension mechanism which can be applied to all existing visa liberalisation agreements.

(...)

The objective of the revised regulation is to strengthen the suspension mechanism. It does this by making it easier for member states to notify circumstances which might lead to a suspension, by enabling the Commission to trigger the mechanism on its own initiative, and by tasking the Commission to send annual reports to the European Parliament and Council on the extent to which visa-exempt third countries continue to meet the necessary criteria.

The possible grounds for suspension have been extended, and include a decrease in cooperation on readmission, a substantial increase in the refusal rate of readmission applications, including for third-country nationals in transit, and a substantial increase in the risk to public policy or the internal security of the member states."

See: Council of the EU press release: Visas: Council adopts a revision of the visa waiver suspension mechanism (27 February 2017, pdf) and European Commission: Revision of the Visa Suspension Mechanism - Frequently Asked Questions (pdf)

EU: New Court of Justice of EU ruling increases human rights protection for asylum seekers in Dublin system (ECRE, link):

"A new ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) increases human rights protection for asylum seekers in the Dublin system. It establishes that a Dublin transfer should be halted if the asylum seeker to be transferred faces an individual risk of inhuman or degrading treatment because of his individual situation. This is notably the case in circumstances where the transfer of an asylum seeker, with a particularly serious mental or physical condition, leads to the applicant’s health significantly deteriorating, the Court says. A Member State should suspend the transfer for as long as the applicant’s health condition does not render him capable of such a transfer."

See the judgment (French): C.K., H.F., A.S. v Slovenian Republic (C-578/16, pdf)

BORDER WALLS: Hungary starts second wall, Turkey's wall with Syria half-finished

"Hungary has begun building a second line of fence along its southern border with Serbia, a government spokesman said on Monday (27 February), a move likely to exacerbate criticism from some of the country’s European Union partners.

...A barbed-wire fence is already in place, erected in 2015, when Hungary was part of the main overland route for hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees, many fleeing the war in Syria.

It effectively blocked that route to Germany, where many were heading, but Hungary has said a second fence would make the barrier more effective and hold back migrants while processing their asylum requests."

See: Hungary starts construction of second border fence (EurActiv, link)

And: Turkey builds more than half of Syrian border wall (Deutsche Welle, link):

"Turkey has erected 290 kilometers (180 miles) of a planned 511-kilometer (317 miles) "security wall" along its border with war-torn Syria, local media reported on Sunday, quoting the head of the body building the structure.

The wall is made from portable concrete blocks each weighing seven tons. The blocks are 2-meters thick (6.5-foot) at the base and 3-meters (10-foot) high, topped by a meter of razor wire. Along the entire wall roads are being built for military patrols and watch towers are being erected."

EU: Europol report on European Migrant Smuggling Centre's first year of operations

"The EMSC one year activity report, published today, details how almost 12 000 operational messages were submitted via Europol’s secure communication network SIENA, representing a 34% increase compared to 2015. The operational messages contained data on over 17 400 new suspected migrant smugglers and helped launch 2057 new international investigations. Nearly a quarter of these investigations were related to identity and/or document fraud, as investigators reported detecting 2589 identity documents that had been forged, counterfeit or reported as lost or stolen. In addition, 22 print shops or document forgery factories were identified and dismantled. The EMSC’s ‘list of vessels of interest’ has grown and currently includes information on over 500 vessels that have potentially been used by criminals to smuggle migrants."

See: Europol’s European Migrant Smuggling Centre: One year on (press release, pdf) and the report: European Migrant Smuggling Centre: Activity Report: First year (pdf):

"The EMSC was officially launched on 22 February 2016, during the 2nd Europol-Interpol Forum on Countering Migrant Smuggling Networks.

This report looks at the evolution of migrant smuggling and the development of the European Migrant Smuggling Centre in 2016."

Interview: detention as the new migration management? (OpenDemocracy, link):

"Certainly people fleeing Syria are in individual or personal crisis, oftentimes, and certainly people left behind in places of conflict or civil war are in crisis. But the states that are responding to migration are by and large not in crisis. These new immigration arrivals are largely manageable, and I think the solution is the way that migration has been managed for most of time immemorial. That is, legal pathways for people to enter a country, or to enter a country without prior permission, and to regulate their status after the fact.

This is something that has been done for centuries. It's only relatively recently, and I think it's important to note this, that we've turned to this really securitised approach of 'fix your status ahead of time or don't come at all'. I think that has real impact on things like right to asylum, the protection of children, victims of trafficking – it's really causing a fundamental breakdown in the way that the international protection regime is supposed to work."

EU: Council of the European Union: Qualifications Directive, "Blue Card" Directive, EES and ETIAS


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (23-24.2.17)
EU Council of the European Union: HLWG: Migration and GAMM report & European Council Draft Conclusions

High Level Working Group on Asylum and Migration (HLWG): Summary of discussions (LIMITE doc no: 5657-17, pdf): Includes: Detailed Global Approach to Migration and Mobility: GAMM UPDATE: 19 January 2017 (pages: 4-29):

"This document provides an updated overview of the main external migration dialogues and processes implemented in the framework of the EU Global Approach to Migration and Mobility (GAMM). The document is compiled for the information of the EU High Level Working Group on Asylum and Migration by the responsible European Commission services, in association with the EEAS."

European Council (9 and 10 March 2017) - Draft guidelines for the conclusions (LIMITE doc no: 5575-17, pdf): Includes:

"MIGRATION: On the basis of the report of the Maltese Prime Minister (see above), the European Council will take stock of the follow up to the guidance provided at the informal meeting in Malta on 3 February 2017, with a focus on operational measures. It will also encourage further efforts by the Council to rapidly deliver on all aspects of the EU's comprehensive migration policy during the current Council Presidency."

GUE/NGL report: High Human Rights costs of EU-Sudanese cooperation on migration control and support of appeal against Italian returns to Sudan in front of ECtHR (ECRE, link) See Report (pdf)

New detention centres at the external EU borders (ECRE, link):

"Greece is building pre-removal detention facilities on the Aegean islands with the aim of accelerating the implementation of the EU-Turkey statement. These will be separate from the Reception and Identification Centres on the hotspots where newly arrived refugees and migrants are initially detained."

French-German proposal for CEAS and returns reduces protection to minimum standards (ECRE, link):

"A leaked joint policy note prepared by German and French governments strongly affirms the intention to further limit access to protection in Europe by curtailing procedural guarantees in the CEAS. The policy note lays out a plan for a “crisis mechanism”, to operate in times of “mass influx” of refugees."

The shame of asylum housing of child refugees in the UK (IRR News, link):

"John Grayson, a campaigner from South Yorkshire, examines the market in asylum housing in the UK."

Are You Syrious (23.2.1)

Mediterrenean: 2,500 refugees rescued off the coast of Libya

"Reuters reports that almost 2,500 refugees were rescued in the past three days, according to the Italian Coast Guard. Some 1,100 were plucked from nine flimsy vessels off the coast of Libya on Thursday after a total of 1,360 were picked up the two preceding days.

Since the beginning of the year, there have been more than 10,700 sea arrivals, the Interior Ministry said on Thursday, a third higher than the same period last year.

Proactiva Open Arms says its crew has had no respite since it entered the rescue zone, as it had to proceed to three rescues with only the support of a distant cargo ship.

“I prefer to die in the water than in Libya”, one woman has told MSF. She didn’t plan on going to Europe, but a rubber boat was the only way out of the horrors faced by refugees in Libya. In Libya itself, 13 refugees suffocated in a shipping container while being transported over four days between two Libyan towns according to the Red Crescent."

Registrations: Greece:

"145 people were registered in Chios until 7:30AM this morning. An additional 12 were registered in Kos and 8 on “other” islands. This is the second time in February that more than 100 people were registered on the islands?—?142 toal were registered on the 4th of February including 105 on Lesvos."

The kingpin of Libya’s human trafficking mafia (TRTWorld, link):

"Al Bija is the biggest player in the coast guard “mafia” that has established a stranglehold on the lucrative human trafficking business in Zawiya and the surrounding coastal region. Nancy Porsia has this exclusive investigation for TRT World....

"The Europeans should have all these details after they have been gathering for months information at sea as part of Operation Sophia," the man explains, referring to EUNAVFOR Med's training programme for the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy."

The articles note the training now being given to the Libyan coast Guard under the auspices of the EUNAVFOR MED operation, point out that:

"Although this is coordinated with Tripoli, not Al Bijaâ's rogue Zawiya coast guard, the nature of the growing EU-Libyan collaboration is nonetheless raising some eyebrows in Libya.

"This agreement between the European Union and the Libyan Coast Guard is ridiculous. They are calling for the smugglers themselves to stem the trafficking," TRT World's source says. "All smugglers [west of Tripoli] pay Al Bija his stake."

Smugglers who don't pay a cut of their earnings to Al Bija find their boats intercepted by his "coast guard," who either take their engines and leave the refugee-laden boats stranded at sea, or bring them back to the Al Nasser Detention Centre in Zawiya, which belongs to Al Bija's Abu Hamyra tribe."

See also: EU-Libya: Mission impossible? Secret EU report makes clear problems in rebuilding Libyan state (Statewatch)

UNHCR: Refugee situation:

EU: Seeking asylum: 884,461
Turkey: Registered refugees: 2,851,968
• Lebanon: Registred refugees: 1,011,366
Jordan: Registered refugees: 695,795 and Estimated: 1.3 million
Syria: Displaced: 6.3 million
Iraq: Registered: 223,224
Egypt: Registered: 116,013
North Africa: 29,275

USA: How US Intelligence Surveillance May Affect Immigrants (HRW, link): "Warrantless Monitoring Threatens Rights of Immigrants, Border Communities"

Greece okays asylum requests of 10,000 refugees (ekathimerini.com, link):

"At least 10,000 refugees, including around 2,000 minors, are expected to remain in Greece over the coming three years as their asylum applications have been approved.

The approved asylum claims account for about a sixth of more than 60,000 migrants who are currently stranded in Greece ...

According to the Greek Asylum Service, a total of 1,912 migrants lodged asylum applications in January of this year. Last year, when hundreds of thousands of migrants flooded through Greece toward other parts of Europe, a total of 51,091 people applied for asylum in Greece, compared to 13,195 in 2015, 9,432 in 2014 and 4,814 in 2013."

The migrant slave trade is booming in Libya. Why is the world ignoring it? by Ross Kemp (Guardian, link):

"I’ve seen the dangerous route to Europe through Libya, with thousands of people at the mercy of cruelty for profit. But our leaders prefer to keep them there."

3 migrants die as boat sinks on river marking Turkey-Greece border (Daily News link):

"Three migrants were killed when a boat carrying at least eight people sank on the Maritza River in northwestern Turkey early on Feb. 22, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Eight migrants of Pakistani origin were trying to cross the Maritza River that mostly marks the border between Turkey and Greece with a rubber dinghy when their boat capsized around the middle of the river near the Ipsala district of Edirne province.

Three of the migrants were killed when the boat overturned, while five others were rescued by Turkish security forces and fishermen. "

‘No one accepts responsibility’: thirteen refugees dead in Greece (IRR News, link):

"As refugees and migrants die in Greece’s ‘hotspots’, military camps and in transit, the EU, the UNHCR and Greek institutions must be held to account."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (22.2.17)
EU: Germany proposes EU rules making migrant deportations easier (EurActiv, link):

"German officials have proposed that the European Union relax some human rights safeguards so that more asylum seekers can be deported while awaiting the outcome of their cases, according to a working paper seen by Reuters.

The paper is among many under discussion in Brussels as the EU, which has taken in more than 1.3 million migrants and refugees since the start of 2015, makes it tougher for them to get in and be allowed to stay.

The paper said the proposal would only kick in at times of a “mass influx” of people to the bloc. “This is another element in efforts to energise readmission of people to wherever they came from,” said one Brussels-based diplomat."

And see: Refugee crisis: France-Germany Note - mass expulsion to subsistence conditions (Statewatch News Online): The "return of asylum seekers (without an assessment on the merits) in order to discourage illegal, smuggler-driven migration" and Germany-France Letter (20 February, French, pdf)

EU: Afghan Returns Built on False Policy Narrative (Refugees Deeply, link):

"The idea that returning refugees will drive development in Afghanistan ignores reality, says researcher Marieke van Houte. She argues that the mass return of Afghans will further destabilize the country and drive a new exodus.

(...)

The economic, security and political challenges of the current transition period have set in motion a new episode of large-scale outward migration of Afghans. Instead of trying to manage and contain these migration flows, and treating the next large-scale arrival of Afghans as a “refugee crisis,” we should facilitate the resilience and ongoing determination of people to find a better life. If migration is to contribute to development and security, it should be facilitated rather than contained."

EU: Ring of Pakistani migrant smugglers prosecuted (Europol press release, pdf):

"Law enforcement authorities of Germany, Hungary, Italy and Slovenia, in strong cooperation with Europol’s European Migrant Smuggling Centre, have dismantled an organised crime group that arranged smuggling of migrants from Hungary to Italy.

Coordinated investigations revealed that members of the smuggling network were Pakistani citizens who formed their criminal enterprise in Italy. More than 100 migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan were smuggled by them in the last couple of years, to destinations in Italy or Germany.

On each occasion between 20 and 36 migrants were transported, hidden in the cargo bays of minivans. The perpetrators rented their vehicles in either Italy or Hungary using fake documents. The illegal transportation was always secured by lead cars, which were also rental vehicles."

IRELAND: Rush to implement new asylum procedure should not be at expense of quality legal advice and representation say Irish Refugee Council (Irish Refugee Council, link):

"The Irish Refugee Council (IRC) today called for clarification from the International Protection Office (IPO) on the consequences of not submitting a questionnaire within 20 days and for more resources to be provided for comprehensive legal representation for people in the asylum process.

Nick Henderson, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council said: “The requirement that people complete a 60 page questionnaire within 20 working days, even with an ‘if possible’ caveat, has created understandable alarm. Our Drop-In Centre and Law Centre have seen a considerable increase in requests for assistance since the new application packs were sent out.”

He continued, “We are asking that the IPO state publicly on their website that flexibility will be provided so that people can obtain legal advice and representation and receive assistance in completing the questionnaire.”"

See: Government warned asylum seekers 'in distress' after changes to application process (Irish Examiner, link)

EU: Home Affairs Commissioner speech after meeting with German Interior Minister

"This morning our discussions focused on the internal and external dimensions of migration, security and border management. We agreed that in the coming months we need to find more common ground for the reform of Dublin based on the principles of solidarity and fair responsibility-sharing among Member States.

The Dublin reform is part of our wider effort to develop an effective and comprehensive asylum system. And I hope that we will find an agreement swiftly on the reform, which will improve our procedures, guarantee refugee rights and avoid abuses.

We need to protect those who need protection, prevent irregular migration and return those who have no right to stay.

With Thomas, we are on the same line on all these issues. In this context, I have also informed the Minister of the Commission's intention to put forward next week an Action Plan on Return and a Recommendation to Member States on the efficient implementation of return procedures."

See: Remarks by Commissioner Avramopoulos after his meeting with German Minister of the Interior de Maizère (pdf)

EU: Amnesty: "we cannot rely on government to protect our freedoms"

Amnesty International has published its annual report on human rights around the world, noting a "pervasive weakening of the rule of law and an erosion in the protection of fundamental rights" across Europe that has often been led by "anxious establishment parties" borrowing many of the policies favoured by new and resurgent "populist" parties.

The report states bluntly that: "We cannot rely on governments to protect our freedoms, and so we have to stand up ourselves. We have to come together and resist the roll back of long-established human rights. We must fight against the deceitful narrative that we have to trade of our rights in exchange for prosperity and security."

Internal EU report exposes Libya turmoil (EUobserver, link):

"An internal report from the EU's border mission for Libya provides a bleak account of the country's misfortunes, casting a long shadow over EU aims to control its migration flows towards Italy.

The assessment broadly echoes statements made by the UN's Libya envoy, Martin Kobler, who told BBC Newshour over the weekend that efforts to deliver services to Libyans "is getting from bad to worse."

Kobler's comments follow the EU's announcement last month to channel some €200 million into Libya-centric migration and border projects throughout much of north Africa.

It is not yet clear how much of that budget will go to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli.

An European Commission official said on Monday (20 February) that they are still in the "identification phase"."

See: Mission impossible? Secret EU report makes clear problems in rebuilding Libyan state (Statewatch News Online, 17 February 2017)

SPAIN-MOROCCO: More than 300 people climb the fence into Ceuta, eleven taken to hospital

Just days after some 500 people clambered over the razor-wire-topped fences seperating the Spanish enclave of Ceuta from Moroccan territory, another 300 people reached Spanish soil by climbing the fence early in the morning of 20 February during heavy rain and high winds, according to a report in Spanish newspaper El Diario. Eleven people were taken to hospital, three with fractures and eight with other injuries.


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (21.2.17)
EXCLUSIVE: UK “voluntary” returns – refugee coercion and NGO complicity (IRIN, link):

"An IRIN investigation finds evidence the Home Office is using outside NGOs to pressure asylum seekers.

The UK Home Office is accelerating its drive for “illegal” migrants and those refused asylum to return home voluntarily – a tactic publicised as more cost-effective and “humane” than forced returns. But how “voluntary” are these returns really? And how have NGOs become complicit in this strategy?"

How E.U.'s Migration Policy Enables Migrant Smuggling (Real News, link): Interview:

Statewatch's Chris Jones says the European Union Border and Coast Guard Agency is less concerned with human rights and far more preoccupied with border control, surveillance and the interception of migrants.

NGOs Joint Statement: Asylum down the drain - Intolerable pressure on Tunisia (pdf):

"Brussels, 21 February 2017 - Lately, Tunisian authorities have been the target of intolerable pressure by Germany and Italy. Within a week, they have been forced to clarify their opposition to the German as well as to the Italian authorities which were allegedly planning to send migrants and refugees back to Tunisia. Domestic security issues appear as a cornerstone in the cooperation framework imposed to Tunisia albeit being attached to a domain which is clearly distinct from it: the right of asylum.

Pushing for the disembarkation in Tunisia of people intercepted by the Italian coast-guards in exchange for support in counter-terrorism policies, as suggested in an Italian press article, would be in blatant breach of the EU’s as well as Italy's legal obligations. The latter was actually already condemned by the European Court of Human Rights in 2012 for pushing back refugees to Libya and thus for resorting to the exact same practices. In so doing, Italy would act in pure and unbearable cynicism for the fight against terrorism is a matter of concern not only to Tunisia, but also to the European Union."

EU: See: Council of the European Union targets Greece and Italy's failure to implement the Schengen acquis and control-return refugee arrivals

Greece: Council implementing Decision setting out a recommendation on addressing the deficiencies identified in the 2016 evaluation of Greece on the application of the Schengen acquis in the field of the Schengen Information System (EU doc no: 6354-17, pdf

• Greece: Council implementing Decision setting out a recommendation on addressing the deficiencies identified in the 2016 evaluation of Greece on the application of the Schengen acquis in the field of management of the external border (EU doc no: 6365-17, pdf)

• Greece: Council implementing Decision setting out a recommendation on addressing the deficiencies identified in the 2016 evaluation of Greece on the application of the Schengen acquis in the field of the common visa policy (6352-17, pdf):

• Italy: Council Implementing Decision setting out a Recommendation on addressing the deficiencies identified in the 2016 evaluation of Italy on the application of the Schengen acquis in the field of return (6538-17, pdf)

• Italy: Council implementing Decision setting out a recommendation on addressing the deficiencies identified in the 2016 evaluation of Italy on the application of the Schengen acquis in the field of management of the external border (EU doc no: 6357-17, pdf)

Oraiokastro: Ugly scenes as far-rights protest refugee children in Greek school (videos) (Keep Talking Greece, link):

"With hate slogans against nine refugee children, a group of far-right-wing members of the so-called ‘Patriotic Movement of Oraiokastro Citizens’ demonstrated their opposition to spread the Greek culture to “illegals” as they called the refugee children."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (20.2.17)
SPAIN: Massive demonstration in Barcelona in support of migrants and refugees

The organisers of a huge demonstration in Barcelona on Saturday 18 February have said it was the largest protest seen in Europe so far in support of migrants and refugees and estimated that half a million people attended. The police put the number of attendees far lower, at 160,000, but in either case it was the largest protest seen in the city since those against the Iraq war in 2003.

EU: New Asylum Information Database reports on France and Switzerland

Two new reports have been produced by the Asylum Information Database examining the situation in France and Switzerland.

For an overview see: New AIDA report: France and New AIDA report: Switzerland (ECRE, links)

The reports: France and Switerland (links to pdfs)

BELGIUM: Aliens’ Office Chief wants checks on migrants’ phones (Expatica, link):

"The Head of the Aliens’ Office (DVZ) Freddie Roosemont is in favour of measures that would see asylum seekers’ mobiles, smartphones, tablets and laptops be subject to screening for possible threats to national security.

Mr Roosemont was speaking during a session of the Parliamentary Investigative Commission into the terrorist attacks on the 22 March 2016.

Last summer the Federal Secretary of State Theo Francken (Flemish nationalist) took a similar line after returning from a visit to Denmark.

"Between 60% and 70% of asylum seekers lie about their identity, whether it’s their name, their country of origin, their age, the route they took to get here or what they had done with their life prior to coming here. Indications can be found on a mobile phone or laptop that can help corroborate or dispel an asylum-seeker’s story”, Mr Francken said."

Italy curtails appeal rights and expands rebranded detention centres (ECRE, link):

"On 10 February, the Italian Council of Ministers adopted a law that foresees the acceleration of asylum procedures and returns, following heavily criticised plans set out in the second half of 2016. The Decree Law is only provisionally binding until it is voted on in the Parliament.

The new law creates specialised immigration chambers to hear asylum appeals. These chambers are established in 14 courts (Bari, Bologna, Brescia, Cagliari, Catania, Catanzaro, Florence, Lecce, Milan, Palermo, Rome, Naples, Torino and Venice), and are competent to decide on asylum appeal cases under a single judge. The reform also limits the possibility to be heard in such appeals: asylum appeal procedures are to be accelerated, as a decision by the specialised chamber must be taken within four months instead of six, and the decision can no longer be appealed to the Court of Appeal."

IRELAND: Government warned asylum seekers 'in distress' after changes to application process (Irish Examiner, link):

"The Government is being warned that hundreds of asylum seekers are facing extreme distress this weekend following changes to the application process.

They are struggling to complete a 60 page application form, with a deadline to submit it, and a shortage of legal advisers to help."

And see: Information note on the new single procedure process for international protection applicants (Irish Refugee Council, link)

BELGIUM-EU: ECJ to rule on humanitarian visas on March 7th (The Brussels Times, link):

"The European Court of Justice (ECJ) will rule in the Belgian case regarding visas for a Syrian family on Tuesday March 7th.

...This is a high profile case, relating to a family of four who wish to seek asylum in Belgium by means of a humanitarian visa initally requested from the Belgian embassy in Beirut (in the Lebanon).

Theo Francken is refusing to issue the humanitarian visa, despite several court judgments on penalties in such cases. The CCE is requesting that the Court rule on how the Visa Code should be interpreted.

On February 7th, the Advocate General, Paolo Mengozzi, opposed the Secretary of State's reasoning. Mr Mengozzi maintains the following. Member states should issue a visa “when there are substantial grounds for believing that refusing it will risk those seeking international protection being subject to torture or inhumane or degrading treatment.”"

See: ECJ press release: According to Advocate General Mengozzi, Members States must issue a visa on humanitarian grounds where substantial grounds have been shown for believing that a refusal would place persons seeking international protection at risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment (pdf)

In a seperate but related story, four Member States (Austria, France, Slovakia and the Czech Republic) recently demanded that it be made clear, in negotiations with the European Parliament on the EU's Visa Code, that the EP's demands for humanitarian visas were a "red line" that the Council would not cross. The minutes record that: "The Chair took note of the comments and said that the Presidency would inform delegations on further contacts with the EP." See: Visa Working Party: Summary of discussions on 17 January 2017 (5668/17, pdf)


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (18-19.2.17)
Refugee crisis: France-Germany Note - mass expulsion to subsistence conditions

- The "return of asylum seekers (without an assessment on the merits) in order to discourage illegal, smuggler-driven migration"

-
Professor Steve Peers, University of Essex comments:

"the plan is that (implicitly) all those entering the EU would be removed to non-EU countries willing to host them, and kept there in conditions which minimally guarantee their survival

Overall, the drafters of this proposal have made no serious attempts to think through its feasibility; and while they make a show of support for human rights principles, their plan demonstrates an underlying contempt for them.".

Italian investigators probe private migrant aid boats off Libya (The Local.it, link):

" The fleet of privately-run aid vessels rescuing migrants off the Libyan coast and bringing them to Italy is "of interest" to Italian investigators, a Sicilian prosecutor told AFP on Friday.

Catania prosecutor Carmelo Zuccaro said the boats were not currently suspected of illegal activity but had drawn attention for their sophisticated and expensive operations.

"There is no investigation in progress, for the simple reason that we do not have information any crimes have been committed," the prosecutor said, refuting Italian media reports saying a probe had been opened."

Hundreds of migrants storm fence to enter Spain from Morocco (The Local.es, link):

" Hundreds of migrants smashed their way into Spain's North African territory of Ceuta from Morocco early Friday and some were injured doing so, the emergency services and police said.

"The Civil Guard at Ceuta estimates that 500 people could have succeeded in entering the town," the emergency services said on Twitter."

Greece-Turkey: NATO's Aegean patrols to continue (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Patrols by the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) in the Aegean to stem the flow of migrants into Europe will continue despite objections by Turkey, defense ministers agreed Thursday at a NATO summit in Brussels.

“The prevention of refugee flows with NATO ships will continue as long as there are prospective illegal migrants or refugees on the other side of the Aegean,” said Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos."

Are You Syrious (18.2.17, link)

Spain: Feature: Democracy killed by the borders

"Hundreds of thousands of people in Barcelona went out on the streets marching to urge Spanish government to take in at least 16,000 refugees, as they are obliged to do under a quota system agreed in 2015. The march was organized by a grass route group calling itself Casa Nostra Casa Vostra (Our home is your home). According to the independent sources, more than 300,000 people took part in the protest."

Greece

"Residents of the Elliniko camp in Athens protested today again against the terrible living conditions. This old, abandoned, Olympic complex has been turned into the refugee camp where over 1000 people are forced to live until today. Conditions are more than inhuman. The camp is under the control of the Ministry of Migrations that forbids access to independent volunteers and even friends of residents."

Italy

"People are continuously arriving in Italy, where living conditions for refugees and migrants are hardly improved. From 4 to 16 February, 1,018 persons, including 39 unaccompanied and separated children, arrived by sea. All of the new arrivals departed from Libya, coming from sub-Saharan African countries and Morocco. However, people from Bangladesh and Pakistan were among new arrivals."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (15-17.2.17)
ITALY-LIBYA: Rome recruits desert mayors to stop flow of refugees from Libya (The Times, link):

"Italy has flown ten mayors from towns in southern Libya to Rome to persuade them to block tens of thousands of African migrants trying to travel to Europe.

The mayors were flown in on an unmarked aircraft for a secret summit with the interior minister, Marco Minniti. He outlined a plan to fund detention centres and boost patrols of Libya’s desert frontier, where traffickers bring sub-Saharan migrants into the country.

“The mayors overcame their tribal differences and offered their full collaboration with the deal — they even asked for its implementation to be accelerated,” an Italian government source said."

EU-TUNISIA: Report: Tunisia to receive intercepted migrants, process asylum claims on EU's behalf

According to a report in Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera, Italy is close to signing, with the support of the European Commission, a deal with Tunisia that would see the North African country agree to receive migrants of any nationality who departed from Libya by boat and were intercepted in extraterritorial waters by missions from Italy or other European states. Currently, in line with international law, people should be disembarked in the territory of the flag state of the ship that rescues them.

ITALY-FRANCE: "Migrant hunt" on trains between Italy and France violates the law and human rights

What is legal in the push-backs carried out directly on trains by French police? "Basically nothing," says ASGI lawyer Anna Brambilla, who has long been following the situation at the French-Italian border: "The problem is a very complex one, and there are many violations."

SPAIN-MOROCCO: Hundreds of people reach Spain over razor wire-topped fences in Ceuta

The NGO Caminando Fronteras has said that there were "numerous injuries" during attempts starting at five o'clock this morning (17 February 2017) by hundreds of people to climb over the razor-wire topped barriers in Ceuta that seperate Spanish from Moroccan territory, with one person reportedly left unconscious after falling from the fence back onto the Moroccan side and others injured by climbing the fence or by Moroccan police attempts to prevent people from climbing. The Red Cross is apparently attending to some 400 people and the emergency services have been called to the scene. It is considered that some 500 people made it onto Spanish territory.

See: Cerca de 500 personas saltan la valla de Ceuta por la frontera del Tarajal (El Diario, link)

EU-LIBYA: Mission impossible? Secret EU report makes clear problems in rebuilding Libyan state

With the EU committed to halting cross-Mediterranean irregular migration, a recent classified report produced by the EU's Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) Libya makes clear the difficulties that lie ahead in attempting to establish functioning state institutions in the country, including those willing to comply with European demands for "integrated border management".

See: EUBAM Libya Initial Mapping Report Executive Summary (25 January 2017, 5616/17, EU RESTRICTED, pdf)

Press release: EU border agency targeted "isolated or mistreated" individuals for questioning

Statewatch press release, 16 February 2017. Also available as a pdf

Guidelines produced for border guards participating in an EU joint operation instruct the targeting of "migrants from minority ethnic groups, and individuals who may have been isolated or mistreated during their journey, as such people are often more willing to talk about their experiences."

Written by the EU's border agency, Frontex, the guidelines on the "debriefing of migrants for intelligence purposes" were attached to the 2012 plan for Operation Hera, a Frontex-coordinated joint operation that was launched in 2006 to halt irregular migration by sea from north-west Africa to the Canary Islands.

Debriefing officers were recommended to seek out potential interviewees as soon as possible after arrival: “Once arriving migrants integrate with others in the camp, there is a tendency for them to become more reluctant to cooperate.”

There are no instructions what to do regarding any possible need for medical attention, fundamental rights or legal information for any subsequent claims for protection.

The guidelines are one of many annexes to the Operational Plan 2012 for Operation Hera, which Statewatch has made available here (pdf) with the majority of the censored parts removed. The guidelines have also been reproduced in a more easily-readable format.

See also: Statewatch Analysis: Opaque and unaccountable: Frontex Operation Hera (pdf)

Amnesty International: EU-Turkey "deal": A Blueprint for despair: Human Rights impact of the EU-Turkey deal (pdf):

"The dramatic scenes that saw a million refugees and migrants cross the continent prompted a backlash that continues to echo resoundingly, prompting a raft of measures increasingly focused on blocking future arrivals. Solidarity between EU member states and solidarity with a record global number of refugees has been in short supply."

EU border agency expects same number of migrants via Libya this year as last (Reuters Africa, link):

"The European Union should expect as many migrants crossing from Libya this year as last, when a record number disembarked in Italy, the head of the bloc's border agency said on Wednesday.

Some 1.6 million refugees and migrants reached the bloc by crossing the Mediterranean in 2014-2016 and the main route now leads from the shores of the lawless Libya to Italy."

Migrants head to Switzerland amid Austria border crackdown (euobserver, link):

"Switzerland is turning into a transit country for migrants heading north as EU states impose internal border checks to stem their flows, according to Frontex, the EU border and coast guard agency.

African migrants arriving in Italy from Libya are avoiding Austria and are instead entering Switzerland in the hope of reaching northern EU states, Frontex said in a report on Wednesday (15 February)."

And see: Frontex: Annual Risk Report 2017 (10 MB, pdf)

Disabled refugees challenged by Greek camps (euractiv, link):

"Disabled refugees in Greek camps are faced with a number of obstacles, ranging from identification and bullying to a lack of access to appropriate services, according to migrant advocates."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (14.2.17)
Statewatch Analysis: Opaque and unaccountable: Frontex Operation Hera (pdf) by Vera Wriedt and Darius Reinhardt (European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, ECCHR):

Operation Hera is coordinated by the EU’s external border agency Frontex and aims to stop migration along the maritime route from West Africa to the Spanish Canary Islands. According to Frontex, the operation has been a success: the scale of unauthorised maritime crossings along this route was reduced from five-digit to three-digit numbers. The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) focused on Operation Hera, seeking to increase transparency about border enforcement operations and to reduce the agency’s unaccountability for human rights violations.

Frontex’s approach to transparency and accountability is evinced again in section 12.10 of the Handbook to the Operational Plan entitled "List of potential fundamental rights violations within Frontex activities". The whole section (including the headline) is completely redacted and could only be uncovered because the index lists the section. The argument that the publication of this section would affect public security seems particularly inappropriate in the context of human rights violations.

In conclusion, the partial concealment of border enforcement procedures underlines the inherent structural accountability and transparency deficits of Frontex specifically and EU agencies in general. Frontex redacted significant parts of the documents provided, including information on potential human rights violations. The provided documents do not give information on the methodologies of the operation in order to ascertain whether Frontex and the involved member states violate national, European and international human rights provisions.

From Hotspots to Repatriation Centres: How Italy Gets tough on Immigration Policies (Linkedin, link):

"the latest plan presented by the newly appointed Italian Minister of Interior seems to open a path towards the return to a fully operational reception system while restoring the confidence into the Schengen area. However, this strategy faces three major challenges in its implementation: redistributing migrants in every Italian region, strengthening international relations with key third countries and encouraging the externalization of border management through law-enforcement cooperation. Although the government promptly assured that the proposal to open a Repatriation Centre (hereinafter CPR) for every region is meant to simplify bureaucratic procedures and alleviate pressure on the overcrowded hotspot system, this burden-sharing mechanism among municipalities in proportion to its inhabitants has already sparked a heated debate."

Clingendael report: EU external migration policies misaligned with reality (ECRE, link):

"On the February 1, Dutch think tank Clingendael released a report on the relationship between irregular migration and conflict and stability in Mali, Niger and Libya. The report’s main finding is that current EU policies are misaligned with the reality of trans-Saharan migration.

The report argues that European external migration policies fail to take into account the diverse socio-political dynamics of intra-African migration. EU policies focus on stemming migration flows through securitised measures as a means to stop human smuggling. "

See also: The Niger-Libya corridor: Smugglers’ perspectives (ISS, pdf link)

Greece: Lesvos doctors accuse NGOs of failing to care for refugees (ekathimerini.com, link):

!State hospital doctors on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos, which has been hard particularly hit by the refugee crisis, have complained that nongovernmental organizations receiving European Union funding to help migrants are not doing enough, resulting in them being forced to bear an excessive burden.

In a statement released on Monday, the island’s union of state hospital doctors said the two refugee camps at Moria and Kara Tepe do not have any pediatricians, meaning that all sick children from the camps must be treated at local hospitals, which are seriously understaffed.

Noting that the NGOs “get paid handsomely” by the EU to help refugees, the union claimed they had “totally failed to provide humane conditions for the refugees.”"

Comment: They mean IGOs not NGOs.

Cash assistance in Greece: An overview (News That Moves, link):

"Several non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) and international agencies, including UNHCR, are distributing cash cards in Greece as part of an ongoing humanitarian aid project funded by the European Union.

The program aims to support families and individuals over 18 years old to meet basic needs for food, clothing, transportation, hygiene products and other essential items."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (11-13.2.17)
Hungary 'stoops to new low' over treatment of asylum seekers (Guardian, link):

"Plans to detain migrants in shipping container camps are in breach of EU law, says Amnesty International...

Hungary has been accused of “stooping to a new low” after it announced plans to detain all asylum seekers in shipping containers near the border with Serbia.

The government of prime minister Viktor Orbán says the measure is necessary to secure the EU’s borders and deter migrants coming into the country from the Middle East via Serbia. It has already set up two razor fences on the border with Serbia and is deploying more than 600 soldiers to guard the fence.

But Amnesty International said the measure was in clear contravention of EU law and the Refugee Convention."

Hungary ‘welcomes’ German, Dutch, French, Italian refugees (New Europe, link):

"Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has jokingly welcomed West Europeans who feel persecuted by liberal agendas to seek asylum in his country.

During his annual state of the union address on February 10, the right-wing conservative politician said: “Naturally, we will take in the real refugees. The panicked German, Dutch, French and Italian politicians and journalists, Christians forced to leave their countries will find here the Europe they lost at home."

Germany and Italy speed up deportations (New Europe, link):

"Germany: From the 280,000 asylum seekers that arrived in Germany in 2016, 80,000 were deported, of whom 54,000 voluntarily, AFP reports. The success of voluntary returns is owed in part to a government program that gives a €1,200 sum to each asylum seekers that returns home voluntarily....

Italy: Meanwhile, Italy’s Social Democratic government is said to follow with migrant deportations Interior Minister Marco Minniti said on Wednesday.

In 2016, Italy received a record 181,000 boat migrants from Libya, of which only 4,000 were deported. That is despite the fact that Italy rejected approximately 60% of the 124,00 first-instance asylum requests.

Addressing the Italian parliament, Minniti said that he would speed up the process of deportations for those not entitled to international protection. That will be achieved by increasing temporary detention centers from four to six."

Greece: Patra mayor vows to keep fighting neo-Nazi Golden Dawn (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Patra Mayor Costas Peletidis was cheered by a crowd of supporters on Monday as he left a courtroom in the western city following the postponement of his trial on charges of violation of duty.

The charges were brought against Peletidis in 2015 by Michalis Arvanitis, then a would-be MP for Golden Dawn, after the mayor refused to give the neo-Nazi party space in municipal offices during the pre-election period.

Peletidis’s trial is to resume on February 23."

Are You Syrious (12.2.17, link)

Protests against deportations to Afghanistan

"Enough is Enough says thousands of protesters took to the streets yesterday, demanding a stop to deportations to Afghanistan.

This comes after German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière called on states to accelerate deportations. A number of regional governments have resisted pressure from Berlin, pointing to security concerns. Afghan asylum seekers not only face security issues when returning home. News Deeply reports how Afghans’ mental health problems are exacerbated by “the psychological trauma caused by their treacherous journey and rejection in Europe” and adds that “some find themselves alone, without family or professional networks to rely on for support. With little left after the financial and social sacrifices they made to migrate, resuming a normal life in Afghanistan becomes nearly impossible”.

HRW: UNHCR Complicit in Pakistan’s Mass Forced Return of Afghan Refugees (Refugees Deeply, link)

"Human Rights Watch has accused the U.N. refugee agency of complicity in Pakistan’s forced return of refugees to Afghanistan in a new report documenting abuses.

At least 600,000 Afghan refugees, both registered and unregistered, have left Pakistan since last July. The HRW report called the exodus the “world’s largest unlawful mass forced return of refugees in recent years.”

Afghan refugees interviewed by the human rights group said the threat of deportation, police harassment and anti-Afghan sentiment in Pakistan forced them to leave."

Germany's Angela Merkel calls for faster deportations of rejected Tunisian asylum seekers (DW, link)

"The chancellor said in her weekly video podcast that she would push the Tunisian prime minister to help speed up deportations. She referenced the case of the Tunisian terrorist Anis Amri."

Road of broken lives (Globe & Mail, link):

"Once the gateway to the promise of new lives in places like Germany and Sweden, Southern Europe is now home to those fleeing war, oppression and economic deprivation, Mark MacKinnon reports...

To be Muslim and on the move these days can be a vexing challenge. As U.S. President Donald Trump battles his country’s courts in a bid to impose a ban on new arrivals from seven Muslim-majority countries, tens of thousands of mostly Muslim asylum seekers are trapped in Southern Europe, partway between the countries they’re fleeing and the new lives they dream of in Germany, Sweden and elsewhere."

Austrian FM defends closing borders to deter migrants (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Austria's foreign minister says closing the so-called "Balkan route" to migrants seeking to reach central and northern Europe was the right move.

Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz held talks with his counterpart of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Nikola Poposki, on Sunday. He told reporters afterward that closing borders to deter migrants has become an accepted practice despite initial criticism."

Italy: Area bans possible for misbehaving migrants - Minniti Minister says decree introduces new model of reception (ANSA, link):

"Interior Minister Marco Minniti said Friday that a security decree approved by Premier Paolo Gentiloni's cabinet brought in a "new model of reception" for asylum seekers. He said that, among the new measures is the possibility for asylum seekers who break the law to be banned from certain areas. "If there is repeated violate of some regulations on control of the territory, the authorities cane propose a ban on being in that territory in which the rules were breached," he said."

Anti-refugee rallies take place in Prague (Prague Post, link):

"Several anti-immigrant rallies took place in Prague, with a large gathering near Prague Castle at Hradcanské námestí and smaller ones at Wenceslas Square and Loretánské námestí.

The protests were part of a Europe-wide campaign organized by the German-based Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident).

The Bloc Against Islam and the Dawn movement were the main participants at the Hradcanské námestí event."

EU: Council of the European Union: Vulnerable refugees in four measures & Humanitarian visas

Vulnerable refugees - redraft of clauses: Theme: ‘Guarantees for those with special needs’ (LIMITE doc no: 5939-17, pdf) With 68 Footnotes with Member State positions:

"In the framework of the theme "Guarantees for those with special needs", delegations will find attached modifications suggested by the Presidency in relation to:

- Articles 19, 20, 21, 22, 24 and 32 of the Asylum Procedures Regulation;
- Articles 11, 17a (3), 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24 of the Reception Conditions Directive;
- Articles 22 (4) and (5) and 36 of the Qualifications Regulations; and
- Article 8 of the Dublin Regulation.

The changes in the text are marked as follows: added text is marked in bold and underline and deleted text from the original Commission proposal is marked in bold and single strikethrough."

• Humanitarian visas: Visa Working Party/Mixed Committee - Outcomes (LIMITE doc no: 5668-17, pdf): Including Draft Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Union Code on Visas (Visa Code) (recast):

"AT, supported by FR, SK and CZ, reported that the EP had not yet given up on the idea of the humanitarian visa and strongly invited the Presidency to make it clear during the negotiations with the EP that this was a red line for the Council. Therefore, as long as the humanitarian visa was included in the compromise amendments, they stressed that the Council would not be in a position to agree on anything.

The Chair took note of the comments and said that the Presidency would inform delegations on further contacts with the EP."

Are You Syrious (11.2.17, link):

Turkey: French style evictions

"According to many independent sources, since February 8th, refugees living in makeshift tent camps in Torbali and Bayindir districts, Izmir area, are being evacuated by military police. Most of the people who are living here are refugees from Syria.

The exact number residents is hard to establish since people are coming and going all the time. Most of them are surviving while working as seasonal workers in the nearby farms, often exploited as cheap workers who are paid less than 10 euro a day for their hard work. Some of them receive their money only at the end of the season, and in some cases, those who hire them, do not pay them at all."

Relocation nightmare continues

"Despite the very difficult situation all over Greece, the relocations and resettlements are still happening very slowly. According to the official data, Hungary, Austria, and Poland remain the only EU Member States that have not relocated anyone so far. Slovakia continues relocating on a very limited basis and the Czech Republic has not pledged since May 2016 and has not relocated anyone since August 2016.

The goal is to have 2,000 monthly relocations, but that number has never been reached. In December, 1,162 people were relocated and 1,131 people in January."

Italy: New regulation for asylum seekers

"The situation in Italy remains alarming, even though hardly anybody is talking about it. Volunteers operating in the area of Como are reporting about 80 persons who slept out in the open last night while the temperatures were 2°C."

91 mosques were attacked in Germany in 2016: ministry (Daily Sabah Europe, link):

"The German government says 91 mosques were attacked in the country in 2016.

The interior ministry said in a report late Friday that most attacks - 21 of them - took place in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which is the country's most populous state with a high number of Muslim immigrants.

The report did not detail how badly the different mosques were vandalized. However, it said police identified suspects in 12 cases and made one arrest."

Switzerland backs 'simplified naturalization' for third-generation migrants (DW, link): "A measure to ease bureaucratic hurdles has passed with more than 60 percent, according to local media. Right-wing lawmakers said they were "alone against everyone" in rejecting the proposal."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (10.2.17)
Greek Ministry Press release: Press release: The pace of the relocation process (pdf):

"From the beginning of the relocation programme and until 20 January 2017 a total of 523 unaccompanied minors had been registered to participate in the relocation programme. 350 had been accepted for relocation until the same date, of whom 119 by Finland. However, many Member States do not accept certain categories of unaccompanied children.

The most serious cases concern girls under 18 years old, who are married, and sometimes even have children of their own. Many Member States refuse to accept these girls along with their families on the ground that the marriage is illegal (which is the case in all Member States), not taking into account either that this is not sufficient grounds for refusing relocation, under the relevant decisions of the European Council, or that relocation is definitely in the best interests of the persons concerned"

Are You Syrious (9.2.17, link):

Police violence - follow up

"Following the reports made by AYS and other Croatian NGOs (Centre for Peace Studies, Jesuit Refugee Service, “Welcome” Initiative) regarding police violence and push-backs of refugees on the Serbo-Croatian border, we are finally seeing a positive development of the situation. Continuous to our reports, a meeting with the Public Advocate was held yesterday in which Are You Syrious?, the Jesuit Refugee Service and Centre for Peace Studies were present."

GREECE: Out of sight, out of mind

"Our volunteer reported from Skaramangas, the biggest remaining camp in Greece with about 3,200 people (almost 50 percent are under 18). It is another place where strict rules are imposed for all those who want to visit. The camp is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Migration and run by the employees of this institution. For anybody who wants to visit, approval from the Ministry is required, even if it is personal visit to some of the residents. No independents volunteers are allowed inside. However, the person in charge of the camp does not see this as restriction of freedom for residents and explains that the reason is to keep people who are living inside safe. It looks more like keeping away all those who want to see the real situation inside the camp."

MACEDONIA: Refugees sent back to Greece in the middle of night

"Almost all the refugees that were placed in the transit center Tabanovce, yesterday night were unexpectedly and without any explanation sent back to Greece, TV Nova informs. It’s about 49 refugees from Syria and Iraq, family members, women, children, elderly people that were staying in the center for almost a year, reports Legis."

SWEDEN: Journalist convicted of smuggling

"Fredrik Önnevall, the swedish journalist who with his team was accused of people smuggling of a young Syrian boy, was convicted yesterday. It was, as AYS has been reported about previously, in 2014 that Önnevall and the team from SVT took the refugee boy with them from Greece when they traveled through Europe to make a documentary for SVT (public service channel) called Fosterland about right wing populism.

Önnevall, the photograph Claes Elofsson and the interpretor that also was a part of the team is according to the courts decesion guilty of people smuggling. They will all get three months probation and community service."

EU: European Political Strategy Centre (EPSC): Irregular Migration via the Central Mediterranean (pdf):

"Between 2011 and 2016, some 630,000 irregular migrants and refugees1 reached Italy via the Central Mediterranean. Some were successfully smuggled across, while others were rescued at sea and disembarked in Italy. More than 13,000 lost their lives attempting the crossing, and many more died on their journey through the Sahara."

EU: Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA): Guidance on how to reduce the risk of refoulement in external border management when working in or together with third countries (pdf):

"This guidance on how to reduce the risk of refoulement in border management situations aims to support the EU and its Member States when implementing integrated border management measures with the assistance of third countries. It also intends to mitigate possible risks of being held accountable.

It is not comprehensive, and Member States have to comply with all applicable obligations both within as well as beyond the scope of these guidelines, including those set forth in international, European and national law."

Farmer given suspended €3,000 fine for helping migrants enter France - Cédric Herrou, an organic olive farmer who has become a local hero for providing shelter for Africans, convicted in Nice court (Guardian, link):

"A French farmer who became a local hero for helping African migrants cross the border from Italy and providing them with shelter has been given a suspended €3,000 fine for aiding illegal arrivals.

Cédric Herrou’s trial in a court in Nice had become a focal point in the ongoing debate about refugees and migrants in France, and the French law against helping or sheltering them. The current Socialist government amended the law against assisting migrants, but it remains illegal to help them cross borders."

See also the campaign against the "solidarity offence": Delinquants Solidaires (link) and French farmer punished for helping migrants enter France from Italy (RFI, link)

UK: Mental health patient kept in Norfolk police cell for three days (Eastern Daily Press, link):

"A mental health patient was kept in a police cell for three days in King’s Lynn because no bed could be found for him.

A second person needing mental health treatment was detained at Aylsham police station for 36 hours as the region’s mental health service struggled to find a bed.

The two cases, both from January, raise further concerns about the number of psychiatric beds in Norfolk and Suffolk which have been cut by 136 - around a quarter - since 2012."

Germany to ‘speed up deportation’ of failed asylum seekers (euactiv, link):

"Germany, which has taken in over one million asylum seekers since 2015, on Thursday (9 February) announced plans to speed up the deportation of those denied refugee status – but controversy flared over sending people back to war-torn Afghanistan.

Chancellor Angela Merkel – who faces a re-election bid in September amid voter backlash over the mass influx – won agreement from leaders of Germany’s 16 state governments on a repatriation plan, which she said would “quickly” be drafted as a proposed law....

Among the planned measures is the establishment of national “deportation centres” aimed at coordinating federal and state operations. Financial incentives will also be offered for those who return voluntarily under the plan."

Hungary ready to build another fence on southern border (euractiv, link):

"Hungary is ready to build a second line of fencing on its southern border to keep out migrants if the situation worsens this year or next, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s chief of staff said on Thursday (9 February).

Hungary has been building fences since the beginning of the migration crisis in 2015. Hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees trekked through Hungary and Austria in 2015 as they sought to reach wealthy European nations."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (9.2.17)
European Parliament: Eurodac Regulation: Parliament committee report takes hard line on mandatory biometric registration of asylum-seekers

A draft report to be submitted to the European Parliament's civil liberties committee (LIBE) proposes that Member States should be obliged to introduce "effective, proportionate and dissuasive" administrative sanctions for asylum-seekers and irregular migrants who demonstrate "non-compliance with the fingerprinting process and capturing a facial image."

The Commission's text proposed an article that said:

"Member States may introduce administrative sanctions, in accordance with their national law, for non-compliance with the fingerprinting process and capturing a facial image in accordance with paragraph 1 of this Article. These sanctions shall be effective, proportionate and dissuasive. In this context, detention should only be used as a means of last resort in order to determine or verify a third-country national's identity."

The draft report proposes changing the word "may" to "shall", thus requiring Member States to introduce sanctions for people who refuse to submit to fingerprinting or the "capture" of their facial image for inclusion in the Eurodac database.

Two Turkish families, incl baby, arrested after fled to Greece (Keep Talking Greece, link):

"Six Turkish nationals were arrested Wednesday after they illegally crossed the border, Greek police said. The two men, three women and a one-year-old boy were taken into custody by by border guard in the northeastern town of Orestiada....

The two families had not applied for asylum yet, but they intended to do so."

Are You Syrious (8.2.17, link)

Greek Forum of Refugees denounces brazen deportation of Afghans

"As Afghanistan has been reclassified as a safe country by the EU, many Afghan refugees now find themselves living with the fear of deportation looming. The agreement made between the EU and the government of Afghanistan essentially amounts to bribery, with EU promising money to the government in exchange for the relocation of refugees. In response to this travesty, the Greek Forum of Refugees has released a powerful condemnation. The statement brings attention to the reasons why Afghans find themselves compelled to flee all the way to Europe, namely that Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan find themselves discriminated against and denied entry into wider society. It also calls attention to the recent wave of suicide attempts undertaken by Afghan refugees across several countries."

Greek Asylum Service publishes press release on relocation

"The release contains a number of interesting facts and statistics, and tries to argue that EU member states are responsible for the slow pace of progress. The average time between registering a candidate for relocation at one of the asylum offices and submitting a request by Greece to another Member State to accept that candidate is 49 days. However, the average time required once a pledge by another Member State has been received and a request is made by the Relocation Unit is only six days. This is a result of the fact that the number of pledges made by other Member States remains insufficient. While until 1 February the Asylum Service had registered a total of 24,233 relocation candidates, the pledges received amounted to only 15,164."

See Greek Ministry Press release: Press release: The pace of the relocation process (pdf)

Hungarian government announces new measures against refugees

"János Lázár, the right hand of Orbán, has announced in a town hall meeting that the government is planning several legislative changes.

1. All asylum seekers will be automatically detained

2. This will happen at the border zone, and people will have to wait there for the decision

3. The 700–800 people currently in the asylum process will be transferred to the border area to be detained

These measures were first announced a number of weeks ago, but more detailed blueprints have been released and the implementation has begun. To justify the Hungarian government’s actions, which are a clear violation of refugees’ rights as put forth by international and EU law, Lázár said that, “although the applicants would not be be allowed to move freely in the country, the camps should not be described as detention” because people could supposedly go back to their country at any time. The official government press release makes further outrageous claims, namely that “immigrants staying in Hungary pose a security risk,” and that “tens of millions are waiting to start moving towards Europe.”

The measures are clearly meant to completely isolate refugees from society at large, to humiliate them so that they will have no desire to risk the journey to Europe."

49 people returned from FYROM to Greece (News That Moves, link):

"In a surprise move, on the 9th of February, FYROM authorities forcibly returned 42 Syrian and seven Iraqi nationals to Greece.

They had previously been hosted at the transit camp of Tabanovce, and they did not apply for asylum in FYROM.

Sources at the FYROM Centre for Crisis Management confirmed the returns to News That Moves and noted that the returns were carried out under a readmission agreement with the European Union."

EU: Commission threatens to sue countries that don’t take refugees (euractiv, link):

"The EU warned today (8 February) that it will consider punishing member states next month if they fail to share the burden of asylum seekers stranded in Greece and Italy.

European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans criticised the bloc for having so far admitted only 12,000 of the 160,000 Syrian and other refugees required to be relocated from Greece and Italy to other EU countries by September this year.

He said Brussels still hoped “peer pressure” would convince recalcitrant countries, but that it would consider penalties if there had been no progress by the time its next report on the issue comes out in March. “That is the right moment to consider other options if they are necessary,” Timmermans told a press conference. “The Commission might start infraction procedures and we will certainly consider that.”"

And see: The Brief: Commission bares teeth over refugee crisis (euractiv, link):

"Today Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans threatened court action against countries that refuse to relocate refugees. The first infringement procedures, which could result in fines, may be launched as early as next month....

A good start might have been mentioning the soon-to-be-missed target in its press release, rather than all this talk of “encouraging progress”....

It could be a case of the Commission finally being willing to bite back only to find that its teeth are uselessly blunt."

Greece: No one accepts responsibility’: thirteen refugees dead in Greece (IRR News, link) by Liz Fekete:

"As refugees and migrants die in Greece’s ‘hotspots’, military camps and in transit, the EU, the UNHCR and Greek institutions must be held to account."

Libyan authorities oppose EU migrant plans (euobserver, link):

"Local authorities in Libya's capital city Tripoli and elsewhere are mounting resistance to EU plans to stem migration flows towards Italy.

The move is likely to further complicate efforts after the EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini announced a €200 million plan to finance migration projects geared towards Libya throughout much of north Africa.

A large bulk of the money is likely to be shuffled into border control and surveillance in the hope of containing people likely to attempt the perilous Mediterranean Sea crossing in the upcoming months.

But Mostafa Al-Barooni, the mayor of one of the largest cities in the country, told this website on Wednesday (8 February) that Mogherini's proposals were unacceptable."

Balkan states to introduce more anti-migrant controls (euobserver, link):

"Over a dozen European interior ministers vowed to impose more measures to curtail migrants from using the Western Balkan routes in their efforts to seek better lives outside Greece.

Austrian-led efforts to shut down borders throughout the Western Balkans last year managed to cut the numbers of people reaching EU states further north.

But ministers on Wednesday (8 February) in Vienna said they would come up with additional plans in April as many still continue to travel through the former Yugoslav countries with help from smugglers.

"We're sending a signal to the traffickers with this conference that there will be no illegal migration to Europe," Austrian interior minister Wolfgang Sobotka told reporters."

See also: SE, central Europe states eye closer border cooperation to deter migrants (channelnewsasia.com, link)

EU strategy stems migrant flow from Niger, but at what cost? (IRIN News, link)

"The EU-funded crackdown on migration through Niger has been effective at dramatically reducing the number of people heading northwards to the North African coast, and then Europe. But what has it left behind?"

Greece: NGOs: Campaign for the access to asylum (pdf):

"No more dead refugees – Immediate transportation of the asylum seekers from the Aegean islands to the mainland for a fair examination of the merits of their asylum applications in a context of freedom and decent living conditions."

Arrivals to Lesvos (UNHCR)

Arrivals from 25-31 January 2017 totaled 76 persons of concern (100% of arrivals in the North)

A total of 456 persons of concern have arrived on Lesvos since January 2017.

Departures from Lesvos

303 persons of concern departed from Lesvos to the mainland (25 ¡V 31 January)

Residual Population (as provided by the Hellenic Police):

3,548 persons of concern in Moria
818 persons of concern in Kara Tepe
171 persons of concern on the Navy vessel
337 persons of concern in hotels"


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (8.2.17)
EU: REFUGEE CRISIS: Commission: 9th report on relocation and resettlement

• Press release: Relocation and Resettlement: Member States need to build on encouraging results (pdf):

"Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said: "The past months have seen progress on both relocation and resettlement....

However, significantly increased commitment and delivery is still needed from other Member States, in particular those who still have not started to carry out relocations at all."

Comment: The targets for relocation within the EU were set in September 2015 and are still way off being met and only a minority of Member States are regularly taking part. Moreover the new monthly targets for relocation from Greece and Italy are not being met with refugees continue to arrive.

Ninth report on relocation and resettlement (COM 74-17, pdf)

• Annex 1: Greece (pdf)

• Annex 2: Italy (pdf)

• Annex 3: Resettlement (pdf)

Are You Syrious (7.2.17, link)

AUSTRIA: ‘Europe is not yet closed enough’ — and we conclude this because people still risk lives to come

"Austria’s Defence Minister wants to forge a new military alliance and strengthen cooperation with countries along the so-called “Balkan route” to prevent refugees crossing Austria’s border illegally.

He said that the EU’s deal with Turkey to tackle the migrant crisis is no longer reliable and that “we must be prepared in case the government in Ankara opens the floodgates again”."

50% more arrivals that in February 2016

"The number of people who arrived in Italy searching for a refuge in 2017 is close to 10,000: 2,500 have arrived between February 5 and 6. Today, the count has stopped at 9,359, that is 50% more than this time last year (6,030 by February 2016).
They come mainly from Africa: Guinea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal, Gambia and Morocco."

The Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration condems the agreement reached by Libya and Italy

“The EU betrays basic rule of law principles and infringes the democratic basis for the peaceful coexistence of citizens” says Lorenzo Trucco, lawyer and president of ASGI.

In their statement, they claim that through these agreements, the EU and Italy de facto violate the principle of non-refoulement, as they require third countries to forcibly block the passage of people in clear need of international protection. They also demand that Italy stops repatriating people to countries of origin where their fundamental rights are not respected."

European Security Initiative (ESI):

The Malta Plan – a humane EU border and asylum policy is possible (pdf)

On solid ground? Twelve facts about the EU-Turkey Agreement (pdf)

EU: Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU): Opinion of Advocate-General: According to Advocate General Mengozzi, Members States must issue a visa on humanitarian grounds where substantial grounds have been shown for believing that a refusal would place persons seeking international protection at risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment (pdf):

"It is irrelevant whether or not there are ties between the person concerned and the requested Member State."

New stats on asylum homes torched in Sweden in 2016 (The Local.se, link):

" Police believe that almost 100 fires at housing centres for asylum seekers in Sweden last year were deliberate, Swedish public broadcaster SVT reports.

At least 112 blazes occurred at asylum accommodation centres, or planned accommodation centres, across Sweden in 2016, according to national police statistics. Of those, 20 fires turned out to be caused by accident or carelessness.

Police believe that 92 of the fires were started deliberately, 37 by residents in the homes. In two cases other suspects have been identified, but in 53 of the investigations the culprit is still unknown.

"We suspect that a large part of these 53 fires were started by third parties," Ola Stoltz, a senior officer within Sweden's national police organization Noa."

EU: Thirteen European nations meet about possible migration uptick (ekathimerini.com, link):

"The interior and defense ministers of 13 European nations are meeting in Vienna on ways to prepare for a possible uptick in migrant flows once winter is over.

Convened by Austria's interior and defense ministers, Wednesday's meeting includes counterparts from the Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Serbia, Kosovo and Greece."

See also: Austrian defence minister seeks new alliance to protect borders (The Local.au, link): "Austria’s Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil (SPÖ) has said he wants to forge a new military alliance and strengthen cooperation with countries along the so-called “Balkan route” to prevent migrants and refugees crossing Austria's border illegally. "

Amnesty: Migrants deprived of rights on French-Italian border - Authorities don’t respect people’s rights, NGO said (Politicom link)

‘Trump’s Muslim ban is racist and illegal. The same could be said of UK charter flights’ (The Justice Gap, link):

"It is right to be outraged at Trump’s Muslim ban. It is vital we continue to respond with outrage to any attempt to normalise it. But in the UK we must also use this political moment to reject the xenophobic moral panic in our own public discourse and to direct outrage at the violence inflicted by our own immigration policies.

Charter flights – planes privately hired by the Home Office to carry out forcible mass deportations – are one of the most invisible incarnations of this violence. Departing from undisclosed locations, the only people on board are those being deported and the private, unaccountable security enforcement personnel ‘escorting’ them. Charter flights are designed to escape inconvenient public scrutiny (such as commercial passengers witnessing use of excessive force); and activists recently organised two weeks of action protesting their use."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (7.2.17)
The European travel document Yet another step to deport by all means (migreurop, link);

"Mid-way in the Valletta processes, and as African and European high officials are meeting in Malta on 8/9 February 2017, the European Union is crossing a step further in its attempts to limit mobility of migrants and imposes its rule on countries where most of migrants originate from through the use of the “European travel document”, a document adopted last October 2016 and almost unnoticed....

The European travel document (EUTD) marks yet another step in the EU’s strategy to externalise its migration policy for over twenty years. This travel document is issued exclusively by EU Member States and enables the deportation of a person without s/he has been identified by the “third” country h/she suspected of coming from, i.e. without the person being issued a consular travel document regardless of the person’s rights and of the principle of equality between sovereign states (guaranteed in the Vienna Convention).

Despite the strong opposition of African leaders against the European travel document as soon as November 2015, a position reasserted in early 2017 by civil society and the Malian government, the EUTD is already in use, irrespective of substantial shortcomings both in the format and in the content."

See also: Statement (pdf)

Are You Syrious (6.2.17, link)

Greece: 54 people came to Lesvos today

As is reported from the ground, “one boat was picked up of north coast Lesvos early hours the morning by coast guard, taken to Skala Sykaminia, 54 people on board all very wet and cold.” People were taken in and among them was one child.
Samos hunger strike continues

Meanwhile, in Samos, another refugee needs emergency care after not eating for 3 days in the camp’s hunger strike. The video below was taken while he was carried into the emergency room and vividly shows the condition this man is in."

Italy: Tragic death in La Dogana tunnel on the border between France and Italy

"On the morning of February 5th at around 7am, a refugee, whose identity has not been revealed yet, was hit by a train in the “La Dogana” tunnel on the Ventimiglia. He was just one kilometer away from the Italian-French border.

Even though rescuers acted quickly, it was not possible to save him. The death will be added to a long list of names of people who have tried to cross the border but have met their death along rail tracks, or the highway, hit by cars, trucks or trains. This is the second person in 3 months who has died in this way; the previous death occurred on December 23rd."

Some 1,500 migrants have been rescued in the Mediterranean this weekend

"This is an unusually high number for winter, when crossings tend to slow because of difficult sea conditions, the Italian coastguard said on Sunday. The number of people pulled to safety in the past two days brought the total saved since Wednesday to 4,500. For more details follow this link."

Lesvos, Greece: Fears and tensions at Moria (News That Moves, link):

"Despite recent improvements at the Moria ‘hotspot’ on Lesvos island, overall conditions for the more than 3,000 people residing at the facility remain difficult, the daily Ta Nea reported.

The newspaper claims that the entry of journalists is prohibited, while those working for humanitarian organisations at Moria must sign a confidentiality agreement and contravening it can mean dismissal and prosecution."

Athens: Ellinikon camp: Policeman punches refugee boy (video) (Keep Talking Greece, link):

"Tension was high when Greek Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas visited the Ellinikon refugee camp in Athens on Monday morning. As the minister was struggling to enter the occupied area, a policeman punched a refugee boy that was among the crowd of protesters. Mouzalas. wanted to speak with the refugees and migrants who launched a hunger strike on Sunday in order to protest the living conditions in the camp.

The protesters did not allow the minister to enter the premises. Crowds of angry people surrounded him chanting Go Away!"

See also: Refugees Block Migration Min Mouzalas From Entering Elliniko Hotspot (Greek Reporter, link)

EU: Council: Schengen area: Council recommends prolongation of internal border controls (pdf):

"On 7 February 2017, the Council adopted an implementing decision setting out a recommendation to prolong temporary internal border controls in exceptional circumstances.

Starting from 11 February 2017, when the previous decision expires, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway should prolong proportionate temporary border controls for a maximum period of three months at the following internal borders:

Austria at the Austrian-Hungarian land border and Austrian-Slovenian land border
Germany at the German-Austrian land border
Denmark in the Danish ports with ferry connections to Germany and at the Danish-German land border
Sweden in the Swedish harbours in the Police Region South and West and at the Öresund bridge
Norway in the Norwegian ports with ferry connections to Denmark, Germany and Sweden."

EU: Court of Justice (CJEU): According to Advocate General Mengozzi, Members States must issue a visa on humanitarian grounds where substantial grounds have been shown for believing that a refusal would place persons seeking international protection at risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment (Press release, pdf):

"It is irrelevant whether or not there are ties between the person concerned and the requested Member State."

UNHCR: There have been 8,268 arrival in the Med in 2017: 8,268 in Italy and 1,663 in Greece. 255 dead/missing (link)

For the record: Arrivals in the Med:

2014: 276,000
2015: 1,015,078 (862,137 in Greece)
2016: 387,739 (181,436 in Italy, 176,906 in Greece. 5,082 dead/missing).

UK : Home Office and Danish Immigration Service report: Sudan: Situation of Persons from Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile in Khartoum (pdf):

"Sizeable populations from Darfur and the Two Areas reside in Khartoum. There are two main drivers behind the immigration of persons from these areas to Khartoum: the security situation in Khartoum and the socio-economic factors.

Persons with a political profile returning to Sudan may be questioned and/or arrested upon arrival at Khartoum International Airport (KIA) depending on the person’s profile. Seeking asylum abroad would not in itself cause persons from Darfur and the Two Areas problems with the authorities upon return except returnees from Israel. Neither would returnees face severe difficulties with the authorities because of staying abroad for a longer period or travelling with emergency papers. A person’s ethnicity would not generally affect the treatment, he or she would receive on arrival at KIA.

The National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) acts with impunity. Persons from Darfur and the Two Areas with a political profile are at risk of being targeted by the NISS and its affiliated militias in Khartoum, particularly student activists and persons with an affiliation to rebel groups. The Darfuri and Two Areas communities in Khartoum are monitored by the NISS, principally to identify those with a political profile."

Syrian Refugees in Greece Are Moving Out of Camps, and Into a New Kind of Limbo (TIME, link):

"The Oreokastro refugee camp near Thessaloniki, in northern Greece, has been called many things by its residents since it was established in June: ‘Hell on earth’ and ‘Greece’s Shame,’ among them."

Germany: Foreign Minister Gabriel plays down Libya as safe place to return refugees (DW, link):

"At the EU foreign ministers meeting, Germany's Sigmar Gabriel played down proposals to return migrants to Libya. Ministers are pushing the Libyan government to do more to halt an influx of refugees to Europe."

German regions stop sending rejected asylum seekers back to Afghanistan (euractiv, link):

"More and more of Germany’s regions are halting the deportation of rejected asylum seekers to Afghanistan, as the situation in the conflict-torn country worsens.

Six of Germany’s 16 Bundesländer have suspended deportations of failed asylum seekers to the Middle Eastern country, according to media reports.

An investigation by the Berliner Morgenpost revealed that authorities in Berlin, Schleswig-Holstein, Bremen, Lower Saxony, Thuringia and Rhineland-Palatinate have largely stopped sending people back to Afghanistan.

The newspaper cited a Senate of Bremen spokesperson who said that the body regards the situation in Afghanistan as unsafe. Accordingly, a total halt on repatriations is being considered at the moment."

Hungary submits plans to EU to detain all asylum seekers - Government spokesman says applicants would be held in ‘shelters’, and denies they would be ‘detention centres’ (Guardian, link):

"Hungary will submit proposals to the EU to protect Europe’s borders by automatically detaining any asylum seeker for the whole period of their asylum application, according to the government’s chief spokesman, Zoltán Kovács.

Kovács claimed Donald Trump’s election in the US was contributing to “a change of mood in Europe” that vindicated the Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán’s tough position on migration, and said the recent EU summit in Malta marked a turning point in the EU’s attitude to migration in the Mediterranean.

At a briefing in London, he said anyone seeking asylum through Hungary would be kept in “shelters” for the whole period of their application, though they would be free to go back to their own country at any point."

Death and Despair in Lesbos - Freezing Winter Conditions Turn Deadly for Refugees in Greece (HRW, link):

"“[P]eople died in cold in the camp… an Iranian attempted suicide and an Egyptian hung himself. Yesterday, a Pakistani died, and last week, an [Egyptian] died in the bathroom. I attempted suicide by cutting my vein last week but I am still alive….” This is the heart-breaking text message Human Rights Watch received from Arash, a 30-year-old Iranian asylum seeker who’s been stuck on the Greek island of Lesbos since last October."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (4-6.2.17)
EU: Asylum: AIDA 2016 Update: Hungary & Serbia (AIDA, link):

"Today AIDA is launching the first of a series of updated country reports from 20 European countries. The reports provide an updated and thorough overview of statistics, legal and policy frameworks and practices in the areas of asylum procedures, reception conditions, detention of asylum seekers and rights of recognised beneficiaries of protection.

Country reports on Serbia and Hungary arer eleased today, while another 18 reports will follow during the next months. “The AIDA database offers an in-depth understanding of country-specific developments but also enables comparative research through common structure. Our reports reveal the persisting lack of coherence and common standards across Europe, from most worrying measures to best practices – for the first time extending their scope to integration questions such as residence rights, access to citizenship and family reunification,” says Minos Mouzourakis, AIDA Coordinator.

The first two reports on Serbia and Hungary are illustrative examples of some of the most problematic policies and practices across Europe. At the same time, they reveal a cross-border perspective of interlinked problems."

The reports: Hungary and Serbia (links to pdfs)

EU: Foreign Affairs Council: Council conclusions on Libya (pdf)

Adopted by the Foreign Affairs Council on 6 February 2017. Including:

"The EU condemns human rights violations and abuses against migrants and urges Libyan authorities to redouble their efforts to improve the protection and promotion of human rights, especially in migrant detention centres"

And:

"Recognizing the need for Libyan ownership in helping to address irregular migration flows and saving lives, the EU will continue its activities through different complementary and coordinated activities in the context of Seahorse Mediterranean Network, European Border and Coast Guard Agency and CSDP, in accordance with international law.

In line with the Malta declaration, the EU will give further priority to the provision of training, equipment and other support, with priority given to the Libyan Coastguard and Navy and other relevant legitimate Libyan agencies."

And see: factsheet: EU-LIBYA RELATIONS (pdf)

EU: Commission provides €12.5 million emergency "migration management" funding to Greece and Bulgaria

The European Commission has awarded Greece €3.9 million "to help improve reception conditions on the Greek islands" and Bulgaria €8.6 million, via the International Organisation for Migration, to "enhance the protection of unaccompanied children, carry out voluntary returns and provide reintegration support as well as assistance, information and counselling to migrants."

Libyans intercept at least 1,131 migrants off western coast in a week - coast guard (Reuters, link):

"TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya's coast guard intercepted at least 1,131 migrants near the western city of Sabratha over the course of a week, a spokesman said on Saturday.

Ayoub Qassem said 431 migrants had been intercepted on four inflatable boats off Sabratha's coast on Thursday and some 700 had been picked up on Jan. 27 from three wooden vessels in the same area.

"The illegal migrants are from various sub-Saharan countries and include a big number of women and children," Qassem said of those intercepted on Thursday.

Those intercepted on Jan. 27 also included migrants from Syria, Tunisia, Libya and the Palestinian territories, he said, and smugglers had attempted to block the coast guards from taking those migrants from their boats."

Italy-Libya memorandum of understanding on migration and development: English translation

Press release: the EU and Italy de facto violate the principle of non-refoulement

At the informal Summit held at La Valletta on 3 February, the European Union confirms its policy of agreements for the closure of borders. Italy seconds the EU requests and concludes a shameful agreement with Libya.

The new foreign policy of the EU Commission and Council: development funds instrumentally used as bargaining chips to reach agreements and partnerships with third countries in order to repel migrants and refugees.

ASGI strongly condemns this shameful policy of the EU and the Italian Government to conclude agreements with third countries. “The EU betrays basic rule of law principles and infringes the democratic basis for the peaceful coexistence of citizens” says Lorenzo Trucco, lawyer and president of the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI).

EU: Commission: Member States' Relocations (2.2.17, pdf): 8,692 relocated from Greece out of 63,302 places allocated and 3,205 relocated from Italy of 34,953 places allocated. Overall 22,453 places pledged out of 160,000 needed.

EU: Commission: EU has concluded readmission agreements with the following third countries (pdf) covering 17 countries, including nine in Europe.

GREECE-TURKEY: Ankara says Greece has ‘forcefully’ sent thousands of migrants back to Turkey (Hurriyet, link):

"Turkey stated on Feb. 3 that Greece had “forcefully” sent thousands of migrants back to Turkey via the River Maritza in recent months.

Officials from the Directorate General of Migration Management, which works under the Interior Ministry, said that Greece sent back more than 3,000 migrants to Turkey in the past four months.

The officials requested anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media.

They said Greece was not abiding by the readmission agreement between Turkey and Greece, while also disregarding international laws on human rights."

Turkey: Greece “forcefully” sent more than 3,000 refugees, migrants back (Keep Talking Greece, link):

"Ankara alleges that Greece has forcefully sent more than 3,000 refugees migrants back to Turkey in the past months violating the Turkish-Greek readmission agreement and the EU Turkey Deal. According to Turkish officials, the migrants were sent back to Turkey through the Evros river (Maritsa in Bulgarian, Meric in Turkish), the natural border between the two countries in the north. Turkish news agency Dogan reports, furthermore, that the migrants were tortured by Greek police officers who also seized their personal belongings before putting them on boats and pushing them back to where they came from."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (3.2.17)

EU: European Council adopts declaration on cooperation with Libya amidst human rights warnings

The European Council meeting in Malta has issued a declaration on the "external aspects of migration", primarily focusing on the "Central Mediterranean Route" and cooperation with Libya.

There are no major changes in the content compared to the draft declaration published by Statewatch yesterday, although an affirmation of a "determination to act in full respect of human rights, international law and European values" has been moved to the first paragraph.

However, these warm words are not backed up elsewhere in the text, for example by including a committment to "a significant expansion of opportunities for safe pathways such as resettlement and humanitarian admission, among others, to avoid dangerous journeys," as called for by the UNHCR and IOM.

ITALY-LIBYA: New Memorandum of Understanding on "illegal immigration" and border security signed

Italy and the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord yesterday (2 February) signed a new Memorandum of Understading on "development, countering illegal immigration, human trafficking, smuggling and on strengthening border security".

UK-ERITREA: Politics before protection: the story of Eritrean asylum seekers in the UK (Right to Remain, link):

"The front page news in the Guardian last week, that “Home Office Eritrea guidance softened to reduce asylum seeker numbers” will not surprise those who have been following the debacle of Eritrean asylum claims in the UK for some time.

The Public Law Project managed to obtain internal Home Office documents that evidenced UK government efforts to seek more favourable descriptions of human rights conditions in Eritrea. This evidence confirms what has been clear for some time – that the UK’s priority has been reducing migration, irrespective of the deaths, torture and persecution that might entail.

Back in Refugee Week 2015, Right to Remain joined 500 Eritrean asylum seekers who marched swiftly and beautifully through the streets of Liverpool to protest the UK Home Office’s treatment of their cases.

It seems like a good time to recap on the what has happened over the last couple of years, and what the legal situation is now."

And see: Home Office Eritrea guidance softened to reduce asylum seeker numbers (The Guardian, link)

EU: Police action against migrant smuggling: report on Italian investigations and Europol press release on safe house "bust"

An article published by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project highlights how the Italian police have adopted methods used against the mafia in their efforts against migrant smuggling networks operating from sub-Saharan African countries, while a recent Europol press release highlights the "busting" of a "migrant safe house" in Budapest during harmonised operations in Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Hungary and Romania.

EU: Asylum: European Parliament briefing on proposed EU list of "safe countries of origin"

"As part of the European Agenda on Migration, the Commission proposed a regulation on 9 September 2015 to establish a common EU list of safe countries of origin, initially comprising Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey. The aim is to fast-track asylum applications from citizens of these countries, which are considered 'safe' in full compliance with the criteria set out in the Asylum Procedures Directive 2013/32/EU and the principle of non-refoulement. Currently, lists are defined at national level and not coordinated, which can lead to different recognition rates of similar asylum applications, and thus create incentives for secondary movements and asylum-shopping."

See: Safe countries of origin: Proposed common EU list (pdf)

EU: Operation Sophia begins training more Libyan Coast Guard and Navy officials

"On 30 January 2017 the second package of the training conducted by EUNAVFOR Med Operation Sophia for the Libyan Navy Coast Guard and Libyan Navy starts in a maritime training centre in Crete (Greece). Twenty Libyan Navy Coast Guard and Libyan Navy trainees will receive training in areas including maritime legal aspects, Human Rights and raising gender awareness, as well as Search and Rescue operations. Package 2 is the next step from the application of basic seamanship delivered in Package 1. The second package will be delivered throughout 2017 in a variety of locations in the Mediterranean area. The trainees are senior officers at the rank of Captain or Commodore."

See: EEAS press release, 30 January 2017: Operation SOPHIA: package 2 of the Libyan Navy Coast Guard and Libyan Navy training launched today (pdf)

Background: Analysis: The EU’s military mission against Mediterranean migration: what “deterrent effect”? (December 2016, pdf) and: Working document of the European Union External Action Service, EUNAVFOR MED Op SOPHIA - Six Monthly Report 1 January - 31 October 2016’ (Council document 14978/16, RESTRICTED, 30 November 2016, pdf)

GREECE: Death in Greek Camps (Infomobile, link):

"Five refugees dead in Greek camps since last week due to inadequate reception conditions. Several others tried to commit suicide. Does life still matter in Europe?"

EU flirts with hypocrisy in criticising Trump's refugee ban (EUobserver, link) by Nikolaj Nielsen:

"The EU rightly spoke out against Donald Trump's entry ban on asylum seekers from Syria. But its own track record leaves much to be desired.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Monday (30 January) that the EU would continue to host refugees.

"It's our identity: we celebrate when walls are brought down and bridges are built," she said in a tweet.

Her comments appeared the same day a young man from Pakistan suffocated to death in a tent at the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. He was trying to keep warm. It was the third death at the camp in a week.

...the fact that the world's richest nations are unwilling to properly care for the thousands stranded in Greece and on its islands is a disgrace. The task has largely been delegated to volunteers, NGOs and international aid organisations."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (1-2.2.17)
Italy: Police instructed to target Nigerians
There's a charter plane to fill and interviews with Nigerian authorities have already been agreed

A telegram sent by Giovanni Pinto, the director of the Italian interior ministry's public security department's central directorate for immigration and border police on 26 January 2017 to all the questure [police headquarters] in Italy concerning the scheduling of a deportation flight and interviews with Nigerian authorities, explicitly instructs police services to target Nigerians. Its contents are troubling although they fall within the measures announced by the chief of police and the interior minister since December 2016, which called for new detention centres to be opened, for an intensification of activities to track down irregular migrants and to increase the number of deportations.

Italy: Deaths at the Border. Control and Repression Replacing Reception (Migrantsciliy, link):

"“Four survivors from a ship packed with 193 people”. “The numbers of missing are imprecise, but in the hundreds.” “Eight bodies but a massacre feared”. By now we do not speak about the dead, but those who did “not survive”, making calculations by exclusion. It is increasingly difficult to know how many people continue to lose their lives at sea. Understanding how many victims our borders have claimed is simply too shameful. Since the beginning of 2017, 240 people have already died crossing the Canal of Sicily, and we are only half way through January.

And yet the journeys of death, violence and disappearance unfold before our eyes every day, the stories of those struck down by a rationality of closure and inhumanity of countries like ours where wealth is gathered and consumed but rarely produced, and so our own economic interests have to be defended by force."

Greece: Interventions in a Crisis – Working with Refugees on Samos Island (Samos Chronicles, link): Long thoughtful piece by Chris Jones, Samos:

"Our work with refugees on Samos has been rooted in our common humanity and informed by mutual respect, solidarity and empathy. In Samos we have come to recognise that these human qualities are shaped by where you stand with the refugees. If you stand shoulder to shoulder as brothers and sisters it nearly always followed that relationships formed where people connected, despite massive differences in background and experience. Even 2015 when the average stay of the refugees on Samos was between 2 to 3 days it was astonishing to see so many friendships made between the refugees and the local activists who met them on the beaches and helped provide clothes and food. Even 2 years later many of these connections have endured....

We have come to expect nothing of value and benefit to the refugees coming from the top whether it be an NGO or governmental welfare agency. They are part of the problem and certainly not the solution, On the other hand we have seen the power and effectiveness of interventions which work with and alongside the refugees as people ‘just like ourselves’. But if it is be more compelling we must recognise that we must also shed light on these darkest of places. It is a huge challenge. But it is necessary if the barbarism of the system is to be halted."

Are You Syrious (1.2.17, link)

Registrations & Relocations

"76 refugees were registered on the Aegean Islands today, including 17 on Samos and 59 on other islands.

493 refugees were relocated between the 24th and the 31th of January, including 237 to Germany and 127 to Norway, bringing the total to 8,412. These brings the numbers for January above 1,000. However, we remain far from the target of relocating 2,000 people every month from Greece and 1,000 people from Italy in order to end relocation by the end of September 2017."

France: Refugees are coming back to Calais and being chased by police

"It its January report, Care4Calais says the clearance of the Calais camp has not addressed the underlying reasons why refugees arrive in Northern France and says around 10–12 people arrive every day.

Care4Calais also says that there is no infrastructure to host them and police is focused on clearing the town of refugees, often taking them directly to detention centres, where they are provided with minimal food, blankets and toiletries and have little or no access to interpreters or information.

Le Monde reports that associations feel “betrayed” by the government..."

Greece: Hunger strike on Samos (News That Moves, link):

"From ERT and Samos Times: A group of refugees and migrants have been on a hunger strike on the island of Samos, demanding better living conditions and faster decisions on asylum claims.

A demonstration at the island’s main refugee facility included a large “NO FOOD” display made of the food containers handed out by authorities and aid groups."

Germany’s new ‘paid-to-leave program’ (News That Moves, link):

"Germany has launched an additional national return program, called StarthilfePlus.

StarthilfePlus works in cooperation with the Reintegration and Emigration Program for Asylum-Seekers in Germany (REAG) – Government Assisted Repatriation Program (GARP) since 2015, which provides returnees with travel and reintegration assistance.

The StarthilfePlus program, effective as of February 1st, 2017, assists asylum seekers willing to be voluntarily sent back to their countries of origin."

Serbia: 7000 asylum seekers estimated in the country (euractiv, link):

"After the closing of the Balkan route about a year ago, by which migrants and refugees mainly from the Middle East had arrived in the EU, there are some 7,000 in Serbia at the moment."

Italy sets up €200 million fund to help African countries stop migrants leaving (The Local.it, link):

" Italy on Wednesday pledged €200 million ($215 million) in funds to several African countries as it seeks to slash the number of migrants risking their lives in the Mediterranean to reach Europe.

Unlike previous European financing pledges, which have aimed to tackle the root causes of migration, the fund seeks to boost efforts by African security forces to stop people from leaving."

France: Crimes off solidarity

As the fight against "irregular" migration is intensifying and people acting in solidarity are increasingly targeted, the French association GISTI has updated its observatory on this issue which it had started in 2009. Comprehensive background information is available alongside news and mobilisations around this issue, and the observatory is continuously updated.

The homepage states why this is important:

"With the establishment of the state of emergency, and within the context of the so-called "migration crisis", we are witnessing an increase in prosecutions aiming to prevent the expression of solidarity towards migrants, refugees, Roma people, sans-papiers… The panoply of offences which are used as pretexts against people who have expressed their solidarity towards foreign people to intimidate and sometimes prosecute or convict them, has expanded.

A new mobilisation by associations is necessary."

EU: Malta Summit, 3 February 2017: Background Note (pdf):

"Since the start of the migration crisis the EU has managed to reduce significantly the number of irregular migrants entering Europe. Preliminary data from Frontex indicate a 72% decrease in detections in 2016 across the whole of the EU compared to 2015. By far the largest share of this reduction was recorded along the Eastern Mediterranean route, following the EU decision to fully apply the Schengen Border Code (end the wave-through approach) and the EU - Turkey Statement."

EU: Malta Summit on external aspect of migration

The Maltese Council Presidency is hosting a Summit of the heads of all EU Member States on 3 February to discuss external aspects of migration. As a follow up to a " Coreper breakfast (19 January)" the Presidency drew up a Note summarising possible initiatives: Malta Summit - External aspects of migration (pdf). The Draft Council Conclusions (pdf) do not take up most of the points raised but the Note shows what is under the table for future consideration.

MALTA SUMMIT: Editorial: Disintegrating the integrated (Times of Malta, link):

"Times of Malta, The Malta Independent and MaltaToday have joined forces to call on the Maltese government to review Malta’s arbitrary system of ‘temporary humanitarian protection’ and to regularise the position of detained migrants whose looming ejection from the island appears to be guided by opportunistic politics rather than reasoned policy.

Malta has to accept a reality of ‘non-returnable’ migrants who have been subject to return procedures but who cannot be returned for legal or logistical reasons, due to no fault of their own."

80% of asylum seekers living in poverty - Research shines light on risk of poverty often overlooked by official figures (Times of Malta, link):

"A staggering 80 per cent of asylum seekers surveyed by the Jesuit Refugee Service and Aditus Foundation are currently living at risk of poverty, more than five times the rate in the general population.

A new study, which will be launched today, also found that asylum seekers’ households earn €200 less a month on average than the €680 respondents said they would need to cover their most basic needs.

Asylum seekers who have been in Malta for a longer period of time are no less likely than new arrivals to be at risk of poverty."

EXCLUSIVE: EU migrant policy in Africa built on incorrect Niger data (IRIN, link):

"The European Union has been touting a faulty figure for migration reduction through key transit country Niger as it looks to expand a policy of giving more development aid to African nations if they crack down on people smuggling and migrants, IRIN can exclusively reveal.

When the International Organization for Migration released figures in early December showing a dramatic drop in the numbers of migrants transiting through northern Niger to reach Europe the previous month, EU officials seized on them as evidence that its strategy of partnering with African countries to curb irregular migration was working.

On the back of EU funding specifically for the purpose, IOM has been monitoring the movements of migrants through Niger since February. Between then and the end of November 2016, the agency recorded more than 417,000 migrants transiting through northern Niger en route to Algeria and Libya, with movement peaking during the summer months...."

Council of Europe: High time for states to invest in alternatives to migrant detention (link)

"The use of migrant detention across Europe, whether for the purpose of stopping asylum seekers and other migrants entering a country or for removing them, has long been a serious human rights concern. I have repeatedly spoken out against the pan-European trend of criminalisation of asylum seekers and migrants, of which detention is a key part. Detention is a far-reaching interference with migrants’ right to liberty. Experts have confirmed its very harmful effects on the mental health of migrants, especially children, who often experience detention as shocking, and even traumatising."

EU flirts with hypocrisy in criticising Trump's refugee ban (euobserver, link):

"the fact that the world's richest nations are unwilling to properly care for the thousands stranded in Greece and on its islands is a disgrace. The task has largely been delegated to volunteers, NGOs and international aid organisations.

With populist parties gaining ground in the Netherlands, France and Germany, the anti-immigrant discourse has also gone mainstream. Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte last week told Muslims to "act normal, or go away".

France's conservative presidential contender Francois Fillon has promised to erect national borders and German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere wants zones outside Europe to screen applicants before arrival.

De Maiziere's proposal is gaining traction.

The plan is to offshore the problem to war-torn Libya. The job is already under way in a handful of other African states and Afghanistan. This is the EU's invisible wall."

EU: New detention centres part of €7 million EU migration project in Belarus

An EU-funded project in Belarus is providing €7 million to establish "a fully-fledged irregular migration management strategy," including the construction of a series of 'Migrants' Accommodation Centres' throughout a country perhaps best-known for being Europe's last remaining dictatorship.


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

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