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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"

April 2019

EU-TURKEY: 10,000 irregular migrants held in Turkey this year (Anadolu Agency, link):

"Some 10,000 irregular migrants were rounded up off Turkey's Aegean Sea coast in the last three months, security sources said.

Coast guard units held 5,729 migrants. Six migrants lost their lives due to drowning or hypothermia and 15 human smugglers were arrested.

Also, 3,919 migrants and 82 human smugglers were held by the land forces.

All of the migrants were later referred to provincial migration directorates.

Last year, 6,336 irregular migrants were held in Turkey."

Germany sets tougher rules for deporting migrant (AP, link):

"The German government has agreed on a set of rules aimed at making it harder for failed asylum seekers to avoid deportation.

The country’s top security official, Horst Seehofer, said Wednesday that the package agreed by the Cabinet focuses on people who have exhausted all legal avenues to obtain asylum.

Seehofer told reporters in Berlin that people who try to hide their true identity can be jailed and those who fail to replace lost travel documents may face fines.

Authorities will double to about 1,000 the number of prison places designated for deportees."

CATALONIA: Government launches 'safe' ports plan for refugees and rescue boats (Catalan News, link):

"The Catalan government has launched an initiative bringing together several departments in order to make its ports "safe" for refugees and NGO rescue boats.

Speaking as the scheme started on Monday with the first meeting of the working group, the foreign minister reminded reporters that Catalonia does not have the power to grant migrants asylum, but does have control over reception and integration policy.

Alfred Bosch said the plan was a response to the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean and recognition of the "moral and political obligation" to welcome migrants, particularly in the face of what he denounced as the "inaction" of EU member states."

Fighting in Libya will create huge number of refugees, PM warns (Guardian, link):

"Fayez al-Sarraj says Khalifa Haftar’s attack on Tripoli ‘will spread its cancer through Mediterranean

Hundreds of thousands of refugees could flee the fighting caused by Khalifa Haftar’s attempt to seize the Libyan capital, Tripoli, the prime minister of the country’s UN-recognised government has warned.(...)

There have been concerns that Libya could become a “new Syria”, with civil war leading to massive population displacement.(...)

“There are not only the 800,000 migrants potentially ready to leave, there would be Libyans fleeing this war",

Rescue ship says Spain is blocking its bid to aid refugees in Greece (El Pais, link):

"A vessel operated by an NGO is trying to deliver humanitarian relief to Lesbos, but Spanish authorities say it needs a new permit despite having one from Portugal.

A Basque fishing vessel converted into a migrant rescue boat called the Aita Mari is having problems going to the Greek island of Lesbos, where it aims to deliver humanitarian aid to the thousands of refugees concentrated there."

The excetional become the norm: Border controls: state of emergency becoming state of normality (euractiv, link);

"Germany, as well as other EU member states in the Schengen area, is extending the period of random border checks. The EU Commission is not pleased. EURACTIV’s media partner Der Tagesspiegel reports.

Actually, border checks should only be temporary. However, the deployment of the German Federal Police at the German-Austrian border, which began at the height of the refugee crisis in September 2015, has since been repeatedly extended."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (9-15.4.19) including:
- Safe harbours: the cities defying the EU to welcome migrants
- Joint Statement – the case of Alan Kurdi
- Switzerland: Authorities must drop absurd charges against priest who showed compassion to asylum-seeker

EU: Safe harbours: the cities defying the EU to welcome migrants (Open Democracy, link):

"This weekend, thousands of people marched in Berlin, and several other German cities including Nuremberg and Cologne, to protest a bill, proposed by the interior minister, Horst Seehofer, that would toughen the country’s asylum and deportation laws and criminalise pro-migrant activism.

The protest was not the first of its kind. Over the last few months, there have been several coordinated demonstrations over migrant policy across Germany. Between July and September last year, tens of thousands of people dressed in orange, many wearing life jackets, took to the streets to protest a growing clampdown on migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean and the civil society organisations aiding them."

HUNGARY: Migrant debit cards: a tool of terrorism? Yes, so vote Fidesz (Hungarian Spectrum, link):

"Commentators outside of the Fidesz propaganda media claim that Orbán’s seven points, which are the basis of Fidesz’s campaign program for the European parliamentary election, are meaningless and undecipherable. Naturally, they are all about migration, but none of them addresses existing EU regulations or directives, which Orbán’s campaign is fighting against. For example, the fourth of the seven points is a demand to terminate the issuance of ‘migrant visas’ and ‘migrant cards.’” In light of the Orbán government’s latest propaganda effort on an international scale in the form of a news agency, V4NA, I think it might be educational to see how the regime creates fake news and uses it for propaganda purposes."

Joint Statement – the case of Alan Kurdi (sea-watch.org, link):

"We have learned that Sea-Eye’s rescue vessel, the ‘Alan Kurdi’, has finally been allowed to disembark the people who were rescued on April 3 when in distress on the Mediterranean Sea. These 64 people (of whom two were evacuated already due to medical emergencies) are allowed to reach land in Valletta/Malta after suffering through ten days of uncertainty at sea.

We are relieved that these people have finally reached firm land in a safe port in the EU but we by no means consider this case a victory. Instead, it was once again a shameful episode in which EU member states unnecessarily prolonged an emergency at sea, the very same countries and institutions who now declare this a successful solution."

Malta announces deal on migrants stranded on Sea-Eye ship (DW, link):

"Malta says some 60 migrants stranded off its coast in the Sea-Eye charity vessel will be taken by four EU countries. It said none of the migrants were to remain in Malta.

The Maltese government said on Saturday that more than 60 migrants stranded at sea for more than a week on the German rescue ship would be taken in by four EU countries after a deal was reached with the European Commission.

"Through the coordination of the European Commission, with the cooperation of Malta, the migrants on board the NGO vessel Alan Kurdi will be redistributed among four EU states: Germany, France, Portugal and Luxembourg," a government statement said.".

Moving Stories - Abshir’s (Samos Chronicles, link):

"Just over a week ago Abshir, from Somalia, was transferred from Samos to a mainland refugee camp at Nea Kavala in northern Greece. He was part of around 350 refugees taken that day from Samos as part of the Government’s attempt to ease pressure on the massively overcrowded camp in Vathi. All of them left on the ferry to Athens and in Abshir’s case with some others, he was bussed north. In all a journey of nearly 24 hours. No food or drink provided.

Abshir was very nervous about this move. He did not want to leave Samos. After 5 months this shy gay young man from Somalia was at last feeling more comfortable."

Trapped refugees must be released and granted safety from Tripoli fighting (MSF, link):

"Fighting that has broken out in Tripoli has further trapped refugees and migrants held in detention centres

- MSF is extremely concerned for the wellbeing of civilians and refugees and migrants caught in the fighting

- We reiterate our call to allow refugees and migrants held in detention to be released to an area of safety and to increase the capacity of search and rescue in the Mediterranean Sea."

The Mediterranean battlefield of migration (opendemocracy.net,link):

"What plays out off the coast of Libya are forms of mass abduction that are not merely tolerated but strategically organised and orchestrated by European governments and its coastguards."

Stranded migrant boat appeals to Europe for port after eight days at sea (Reuters, link):

"A charity ship with scores of African migrants on board appealed to European states for a safe port on Thursday after being stranded for eight days between Malta and Italy, saying the health of the rescued people was worsening."

Greece in Denial About Police Detention of Lone Kids - Athens Fails to Act on European Court Ruling Against Detaining Migrant Kids (HRW, link):

"The European Court of Human Rights recently confirmed what many have long known: that Greece’s practice of locking up unaccompanied migrant and asylum-seeking children in police cells and detention centers leads to serious rights abuses.

But despite that ruling, as of March 30, 82 unaccompanied children were still detained in so-called “protective custody,” held in police station cells or immigrant detention centers across the country."

Refugees on stranded NGO rescue ship in 'poor state' (DW, link)

"The Sea-Eye rescue ship Alan Kurdi is anchored off the coast of Malta with over 60 refugees on board. The vessel has been forbidden to dock. Sea-Eye spokesperson Carlotta Weibl spoke with DW about the situation."

Switzerland: Authorities must drop absurd charges against priest who showed compassion to asylum-seeker (AI, link):

"Pastor Norbert Valley, who was taken from his Sunday service by police for questioning, is charged with “facilitating the illegal stay” of a Togolese man. Following his refusal to pay a fine of 1,000 Swiss Francs, the Public Prosecutor will decide tomorrow whether to issue an indictment."

Migratory situation in March – Eastern Mediterranean accounts for most of all irregular migrants (Frontex, link):

"In March, the number of detections of illegal border crossings on Europe’s main migratory routes fell by 7% from the previous month to nearly 4 600, mainly due to a drop in migrant arrivals in Spain. The total for the first quarter of 2019 was 13% lower than a year ago at around 17 900."

Illegal migrants stopped in Edirne as rumors spark exodus to Europe (Daily Sabah, link):

"From highways to railroads, everywhere seems to be teeming with illegal migrants in Edirne. This northwestern province bordering Greece is a common route for migrants, but it is rare for migrants to arrive en masse to Edirne, hoping to sneak into Greece. More than 2,000 illegal migrants were intercepted by security forces in the province since April 4, and this new trend is attributed to rumors on social media accompanied with fake news that the border crossing will be opened for migrants traveling to Europe.Security forces work around the clock in areas near the border and in downtown Edirne and try to persuade migrants with the proper paperwork to go back to the cities they arrived from. Others without documents are accommodated at migrant centers in the province. Scenes in Edirne are reminiscent of another mass illegal migrant attempt four years ago when Syrian migrants heard rumors that European countries would admit more refugees."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (2-8.4.19) including:

- Analysis: Italy's redefinition of sea rescue as a crime draws on EU policy for inspiration
- IOM: 356 deaths in the Mediterranean so far in 2019
- Overhaul of Spanish coastguard agency sparks fears for search and rescue operations


Analysis: Italy's redefinition of sea rescue as a crime draws on EU policy for inspiration

On the evening of 18 March, an ongoing conflict between the Italian government and civil sea rescue initiatives was reignited following the rescue of 49 people in international waters north of Libya by the ship Mare Jonio, of the Italian citizen-funded sea rescue initiative Mediterranea - Saving Humans.

Three teens charged in Malta over refugee ship hijacking (Al Jazeera, link):

"Authorities in Malta have charged three teenagers with committing an act of "terrorism" for their suspected role in hijacking a merchant ship that rescued them off the coast of Libya.

The teenagers, among 108 refugees and asylum seekers rescued by El Hiblu 1 earlier this week, appeared at a court in the Maltese capital, Valletta, on Saturday.

They were accused of seizing control of the tanker and using force and intimidation against the crew to change the ship's course to Europe."

Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 12,174 in 2019; Deaths Reach 356 (IOM, link):

"The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports that 12,174 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea through 3 April. Deaths on the three main Mediterranean Sea routes have reached 356 individuals."

See also: IOM Statement: Protecting Migrants in Libya Must be Our Primary Focus (link): "Libya cannot yet be considered a safe port."

EU Trust Fund for Africa: €115.5 million to enhance security, migrant protection and job creation in the Sahel region (European Commission press release, pdf):

"The European Commission adopted five new programmes and three top-ups of current programmes worth €115.5 million under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa to complement ongoing efforts in the Sahel and Lake Chad region.

...An additional €30 million will serve to protect migrants and refugees along the Central Mediterranean route and look for sustainable solutions in the Sahel and Lake Chad region. It will further increase the number of migrants benefitting from protection and voluntary return while ensuring their sustainable and dignified reintegration. In Niger, the Joint Investigation Team has dismantled 33 criminal networks and 210 smugglers have been convicted over the past two years. It will receive an extra €5.5 million to build on this success. In Ghana, €5 million for capacity-building and equipment will strengthen the country's border management."

Austria extends duration of border checks for Hungary and Slovenia - APA (Reuters, link):

"ZURICH (Reuters) - Austria will extend its border controls for fellow EU members Hungary and Slovenia until at least November, Austrian news agency APA reported on Sunday, citing a letter from the country’s interior minister to the European Commission.

In the letter to the EU Commission, Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl cited a persistently high number of illegal migrants and a “latent threat of terrorism” related to the prospect of fighters returning from former Islamic State strongholds in Syria and Iraq, APA reported. "

Surveillance Company Cellebrite Finds a New Exploit: Spying on Asylum Seekers (Privacy International, link):

"Cellebrite, a surveillance firm marketing itself as the “global leader in digital intelligence”, is marketing its digital extraction devices at a new target: authorities interrogating people seeking asylum.

Israel-based Cellebrite, a subsidiary of Japan’s Sun Corporation, markets forensic tools which empower authorities to bypass passwords on digital devices, allowing them to download, analyse, and visualise data. "

Spanish fireman faces 20 years in prison for rescuing migrants at sea (El País, link):

"“We could only save half of them, many people drowned,” remembers Roldán, a 32-year-old firefighter from the southern city of Málaga, who has been part of the underwater unit of the Seville City Hall Fire Department since 2013. His act of solidarity that day, as well as his help on other rescue missions in the summer of 2017, could land him behind bars for 20 years for allegedly aiding illegal immigration and working with human traffickers."

Spain’s civilian coast guard caught in election crosshairs (Politico, link):

"An overhaul of Spain’s operations in the Mediterranean has sparked fears among activists that Madrid is quietly gutting a civilian search-and-rescue agency credited with saving thousands of lives.

The changes to the Salvamento Marítimo rescue operation come as Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s center-left government is under electoral pressure from the far right ahead of a general election later this month.

...Four of the agency’s mid-sized rescue ships will be moved from the Sea of Alborán, where most sea rescues took place last summer, to areas that receive less migrant traffic: one to the Balearic Islands, two to the eastern Spanish city of Cartagena, and one to the Canary Islands, according to an internal February report from Salvamento Marítimo’s security and safety committee obtained by POLITICO."

Gen Khalifa Haftar’s forces close in on Tripoli (Irish Times, link):

"Dozens of migrants and refugees in a Tripoli detention centre were dressed in old military uniforms and ordered to begin packing weapons this week, as rival forces began to march on the Libyan capital.(...)

In the Tripoli detention centre, some of the thousands of refugees and migrants who are locked up indefinitely, after being returned to Libya by the EU-backed Libyan coastguard, worried that they may be forced to fight."

Vento e pioggia sui migranti: le immagini a bordo della nave Alan Kurdi (lapresse.it, link):

On board of the Alan Kurdi, ship blocked in application of the directive from interior ministry. Appears its heading for Malta after not having been allowed into Italian waters.

. AYS on criminalisation, pushbacks in EU Parliament (link)

UN head ‘shocked’ by suffering at migrant camp in LibyaUN head ‘shocked’ by suffering at migrant camp in Libya (euractiv, link):

"UN Secretary General António Guterres said Thursday (4 April) he was “shocked” by the level of suffering of migrants at a detention centre in Tripoli which he visited during a visit to the Libyan capital.

“I was very moved and shocked by the level of suffering and especially by the level of despair that I found,” Guterres told reporters during the second day of trip to Tripoli during which he visited the Zara detention centre."

EU funds the sacking of rescue ships in the Mediterranean (link):

"The European Union has mandated Italy to set up several maritime control centres in Libya. The Coast Guard and Maritime Police will be linked to European surveillance systems, the authorities will communicate directly with Frontex. The project costs 46 million euros and starts in July. But the Libyan Coast Guard has since long been connected to Italian counterparts.

European Parliament: Briefing: Recasting the Return Directive (pdf):

"Taking into account the decrease in the EU return rate (45.8 % in 2016 and 36.6 % in 2017), and following European Council and Council calls to review the 2008 legal text to enhance the effectiveness of the EU return policy, the Commission has proposed a targeted recast of the directive aiming to 'reduce the length of return procedures, secure a better link between asylum and return procedures and ensure a more effective use of measures to prevent absconding'."

See also: Lock ‘em up: the proposal to amend the EU’s Returns Directive (EU Law Analysis, link) by Professor Steve Peers.


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

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