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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"

August 2019

IRELAND: Migrant rescues help naval recruiting (Irish Examiner, link):

"The positive publicity surrounding the Naval Service’s role in saving trafficked migrants from drowning in the Mediterranean Sea was responsible for an increase in people joining the force.

That’s according to recruitment figures released by the Naval Service showing the years leading up to the operations and while they were underway.

However, concerns have been raised by Naval Service sources that without such missions, and with still no pay increases coming from the Government, it will prove hard to attract the same numbers as witnessed when Operation Pontus and Operation Sophia were in full flow."

Partners in crime? The impacts of Europe’s outsourced migration controls on peace, stability and rights (Saferworld, link):

"Migration into Europe has fallen since 2015, when more than one million people fleeing conflict and hardship attempted sea crossings. But deaths and disappearances in the central Mediterranean have shot up, exposing the ‘fight against migration’ as flawed and dangerous.

While leaders in Europe and elsewhere claim that clamping down on migration saves lives by deterring people from undertaking dangerous journeys, the reality is that European governments’ outsourced migration policies are feeding into conflict and abuse – and reinforcing the drivers of migration.

Drawing on extensive research, this report analyses the European Union’s and European governments’ outsourcing of migration controls in ‘partner’ countries such as Turkey, Libya and Niger. It explores who benefits from this system, exposes its risks and explains who bears the costs. It also provides recommendations for European leaders on how to move toward a humane model for migration that refocuses on EU commitments to human rights, conflict prevention and sustainable development."

Migrant rescue ship heads for Italy after judge overrules Salvini (Al Jazeera, link):

"An Italian court has upheld an appeal by the Spanish rescue ship Proactiva Open Arms, suspending far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini's decision to ban the ship from entering the country's waters.

The Italian court ruled that the ban violates international laws in light of the "exceptionally grave and urgent situation due to the protracted stay of the migrants on our boat", Open Arms said in a statement on Wednesday.

The group said its ship is now heading towards Italian waters and expects to reach them on Thursday morning. Additionally, it has made new requests to Italy and Malta for a port that will let them disembark the migrants on medical grounds."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (6-12.8.19) including:

- Greece’s New Government Is Cracking Down on Anarchists, Drug Dealers and Refugees
- Italian law increases penalties related to protests and criminalises NGOs’ rescue of migrants at sea
- EU border force Frontex accused of allowing abuse of migrants


Greece’s New Government Is Cracking Down on Anarchists, Drug Dealers and Refugees (Novara Media, link):

"Following a landslide election win last month, Greece’s new centre-right government is cracking down on a “lawless” Athens neighbourhood known for leftwing activism and migrant solidarity networks. With backing from prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, police have used the prevalence of illegal drugs and an alleged terrorism threat to justify a series of raids and evictions across the Exarchia area of the Greek capital. But instead of routing out terrorists and dealers, residents say the authorities are targeting refugee housing, leaving hundreds of vulnerable people with nowhere to go."

Italian law increases penalties related to protests and criminalises NGOs’ rescue of migrants at sea (ECNL, link):

"The new law introduces harsher provisions regulating assemblies taking place in public places or private spaces open to the public (...)

The new law grants new powers to the Ministries of the Interiors, Defence and Transport, who will now jointly be able to restrict or prohibit the entry, transit or docking of ships in the territorial sea, except for military or government non-commercial vessels, for security reasons, when there are reasons to believe that the crime of aiding and abetting illegal immigration has been committed (Article 1)."

See: New Law (Italian, link)

MSF has returned to the Central Mediterranean because people are dying at sea.(MSF, link):

"Our new search and rescue ship, Ocean Viking, has launched while European governments are failing to fulfil their basic legal obligations or protect vulnerable people fleeing from north Africa to southern Europe – the world’s deadliest migration route."

Cyprus asks Brussels to relocate 5,000 asylum seekers (Politico, link):

"Cyprus has asked the European Commission to help relocate 5,000 asylum seekers to other EU countries as the island nation struggles to accommodate an influx of migrants.

In a letter sent on Monday to Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and other EU members, Cyprus' Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides described the gravity of the migration situation on the island and said that a lack of cooperation from nearby Turkey has made finding a solution more difficult."

UN warns Italy over tough law on migrant rescue boats (euractiv, link):

"The UN voiced concern on Tuesday (6 August) over a law approved by Italy’s parliament that imposes stiffer penalties on NGO migrant rescue boats in the Mediterranean, demanding humanitarian work “not be criminalised or stigmatised.”"

Ocean Viking migrant rescue ship 'not allowed' to refuel in Malta (aljazeera.com, link):

"Ocean Viking, operated by SOS Mediterranee and MSF, started its rescue mission in the Mediterranean earlier this week.

Maltese authorities have refused the Ocean Viking rescue ship to refuel in their harbours while on its search and rescue mission off the coast of Libya, according to SOS Mediterranee, the rescue organisation operating the ship.

According to SOS Mediterranee, which operates the ship with Doctors Without Borders, known by its French initials MSF, the Ocean Viking was originally allowed to refuel on open waters."

Caritas Europa: Position paper: The “criminalisation” of solidarity towards migrants (pdf):

"In a context of stricter migration policies, activities carried out by NGOs and volunteers to ensure migrants get access to basic services and rights when the state is not delivering, are increasingly being portrayed by politicians as colluding with human smuggling and trafficking. A trend has emerged to pose obstacle, demonise, stigmatise, and criminalise humanitarian assistance to migrants throughout Europe, creating a chilling effect that results in discouraging solidarity. We refer broadly to this phenomenon as the “criminalisation” of solidarity, as it extends beyond mere judicial actions."

Refugee rescuers to be fined up to €1m under new Italian law promoted by far-right Salvini (Independent, link)

"Charity says security decree ‘will inflict useless suffering ... putting at risk the lives of vulnerable people.

Refugee rescue boats carrying stranded migrants face fines of up to €1m after the Italian parliament passed a controversial law promoted by Matteo Salvini, the far-right interior minister.

Under the law, boat captains bringing rescued refugees to Italy will face arrest if unauthorised; their vessels could be confiscated; and the owners of the operations face steep fines between €150,000 (£138,000) and €1m (£919,000)."

See: UNHCR concerned at new measures impacting rescue at sea in the Central Mediterranean (link)

EU border force Frontex accused of allowing abuse of migrants (euractiv, link):

"The EU’s border force Frontex has allegedly been turning a blind eye to ill treatment of refugees by guards at EU external borders, according to media reports on Monday (5 August)

A joint investigation by German public broadcaster ARD, non-profit investigative journalism website Correctiv and British newspaper The Guardian also accused Warsaw-based Frontex of violating the human rights of refugees during deportations.

Citing internal documents, the report said Frontex had allowed guards to use dogs to hunt down migrants, as well as to deploy pepper spray and batons, particularly along EU borders in Bulgaria, Hungary and Greece.

The investigation accused local guards of using force or threats to return migrants back across the EU’s external borders, thus obstructing the basic right to seek asylum."

And see: Once migrants on Mediterranean were saved by naval patrols. Now they have to watch as drones fly over Experts condemn move to aerial surveillance as an abrogation of ‘responsibility to save lives’ (Guardian, link) and "The expansion of the deportation machine" (link)


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (26.7-5.8.19) including:

- Italy and Malta want compulsory relocation mechanism
- UK Home Office rejects demands for a time limit on migrant detention
- European Commission takes Hungary to court over laws criminalising support for asylum-seekers


Italy-Malta "Non Paper" wants compulsory relocation mechanism rather than the voluntary one

The Italian and Maltese: Non-Paper (pdf) is presented as being in opposition to the solidarity mechanism and plan to organise orderly relocations and disembarkation in compliance with the law of the sea and the principle of the nearest safe harbour or place of safety.

Migration Mobilities Bristol - New thinking on people and movement (migration.blogs.bristol.ac.uk, link):

"Memorials to people who have died and to those missing during migration - Reflections on the first WUN-funded workshop By Martin Preston, University of Bristol:

Memorials form one way in which public memory is created and reproduced (Dickinson, et al, 2010). The shores of Lesvos and the water around it serve as the final resting place for many of those lost. Initiated by ‘Welcome to Europe’ a purpose-made physical recognition of the dead and missing of the ongoing migration ‘crisis’, a monument at the shores at Thermi on the East of the island was destroyed by unknown perpetrators. However the spot remains a focal point to remember those who have died, as happens annually since October 2013."

Migrant crisis: Self-immolation exposes UN failures in Libya (BBC News, link):

"After a horrific two-year ordeal across three countries - being bought and sold by people traffickers and surviving running out of fuel on an inflatable boat while trying to cross the Mediterranean - Mohamed finally gave up hope.

The Somali man's wife Leyla, 21, recalls the day he burnt himself to death after hearing that they were not on a UN refugee list."

How the media contributed to the migrant crisis (Guardian, link):

"Disaster reporting plays to set ideas about people from ‘"over there’"

Europe’s refugee crisis, or more properly, a disaster partly caused by European border policies, rather than simply the movement of refugees towards Europe, was one of the most heavily mediated world events of the past decade."

Italy lets in stranded migrants after striking EU deal (euractiv, link):

"Italy allowed 116 rescued migrants to disembark from a coastguard ship Wednesday (31 July) with Interior Minister Matteo Salvini’s backing after five EU countries and the Church agreed to share responsibility for looking after them."

Home Office rejects Human Rights Committee’s call for a time limit to immigration detention (HoC, link):

"The Home Office has rejected the UK Parliament Human Rights Committee’s recommendation to introduce a time limit on immigration detention, despite the overwhelming cross-party support."

Probe opened into Gregoretti coast guard-ship case - EU asks members to take in migrants, Berlin says willing to do so (ANSA.it, link):

"The Siracusa prosecutor's office has opened an investigation regarding the case of the coast guard ship Gregoretti, which has been in the Augusta port since Saturday evening with 115 migrants still onboard. The ship's captain, according to reports, is at the prosecutor's office to be questioned. Meanwhile, the European Commission is contacting member states to understand which countries would be willing to take in some of the migrants."

“Video lie detector” for travelers: Patrick Breyer sues EU for keeping the iBorderCtrl project secret (patrick-breyer.de, link):

"The EU is funding the development of a “video lie detector” to detect deception by immigrants through video recordings of their faces. Because the EU is keeping information on this scientifically highly controversial project secret, civil liberties activist and Pirate Party Member of the European Parliament, Dr. Patrick Breyer, has filed a complaint with the EU Court of Justice."

July 2019

Police kicks foreign passenger at Athens International Airport (video) (Keep Talking Greece, link):

"Greek police has ordered an urgent internal investigation into an incident where a police officers kicks a foreign passenger at the Athens International Airport ‘Eleftherios Venizelos.’

The incident was captured on a video and posted on social media by the brother of the harassed passenger.

Arash Hampay has reportedly complained to the airport authorities before posting the video."

UK: Anti-Deportation Activists Are Blocking Coaches to Charter Flights (VICE, link):

"We watched Reclaim the Power members blockade the depot of a coach company that transports people due to be deported on charter flights.

At around 5AM this morning, activists began a blockade of Hallmark Connect coach depot, just south of Heathrow airport, to demonstrate against the company's involvement in the transportation of detainees due to be deported on controversial charter flights."

Migrants: contacts with states on Gregoretti - EU Germany says it is available to host some (ANSA, link):

" A European Commission spokesperson, speaking about the coast guard ship Bruno Gregoretti, said that ''following Italy's request'' for a refugee redistribution plan, the Commission ''has started contacts to support and coordinate all those member states who intend to take part in efforts of solidarity concerning the migrants on board'', who are 140. ''These contacts are still ongoing'', the spokesman added.

''We are not in the position to say how many and which countries'' are taking part in solidarity efforts ''but it will be up to the single states to communicate their availability'', the spokesperson added,"

EU gives Greece blimp to monitor migrants (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Authorities say European Union border agency Frontex has provided the Greek coast guard with a crewless blimp to help combat illegal immigration and to augment search and rescue operations in the eastern Aegean Sea.

Greece's Shipping Mministry says the 35-meter (115-foot) airship can fly as high as 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) and will be tethered to the ground on the island of Samos, which is close to Turkey's coast."

Dozens of migrants still stuck on coastguard vessel in Italy port (euractiv, link):

"An Italian coastguard vessel stranded in the Mediterranean with more than 130 migrants aboard has been allowed to dock in the Sicilian port of Augusta but Rome on Sunday (28 July) refused to let them disembark until a deal is struck with the EU."

Suspension of EU-Turkey Deal and Mass Deportations from Turkey (Deportation Monitoring Aegean, link):

"Turkey started mass expulsion of Syrians and at the same time refuses to take back migrants from Greece under the EU-Turkey readmission deal."

And see: Home page (link)

Outsourcing European Border Control: Recent Trends in Departures, Deaths and Search and Rescue Activities in the Central Mediterranean (law.ox.ac.uk, link):

"In our previous blog post ‘Border Deaths in the Mediterranean: what we can learn from the latest data?’ on Border Criminologies (March 2017) we discussed the existing data sources on Mediterranean Sea migration and provided an analysis of key patterns and trends. We found that Search and Rescue (SAR) has little or no effect on the number of arrivals, and it is rather the absence of SAR that leads to more deaths. These results, which are in line with other research, were covered by various European media outlets and also resulted in a peer reviewed publication in Sociology (also available as a free preprint)."

European Commission: Commission takes Hungary to Court for criminalising activities in support of asylum seekers and opens new infringement for non-provision of food in transit zones (Press release, pdf):

"Today, the European Commission decided to refer Hungary to the Court of Justice of the EU concerning legislation that criminalises activities in support of asylum applications and further restricts the right to request asylum. The Commission has also decided tosend a letter of formal notice to Hungary concerning the non-provision of food to persons awaiting return who are detained in the Hungarian transit zones at the border with Serbia."

GREECE: Refugees wanted to be heard, so they started the Migratory Birds newspaper (neoskosmos.com, link):

"Mahdia Hosseini, 28, and Fatima Sedaghat, 16, are two young women from the Network for Children’s Rights youth centre in Kolonos, a working class district of Athens. The centre serves the needs of young refugees, migrants as well as low-income Greek people from morning until night.

It’s newspaper, Migratory Birds, is one of the few refugee-led initiatives in Greece and has a circulation of 13,000, and is printed in five languages: Greek, English, Arabic, Farsi and Urdu. Recent funding cuts have meant an uncertain future for the publication that has given voice to dozens of migrant and refugee communities since it got off the ground in 2017."

Up to 150 feared dead as boats capsize off Libya - About 137 people were rescued and returned to Libya, according to coastguard (Guardian, link):

"Up to 150 people attempting the perilous sea crossing from Libya to Europe are missing and feared drowned after two migrant boats capsized on Thursday.

If the toll is confirmed, it would be the highest from a shipwreck in the Mediterranean this year.

Ayoub Gassim, a spokesman for Libya’s coastguard, told Associated Press that two boats carrying about 300 people capsized about 75 miles (120km) east of the capital, Tripoli. About 137 people were rescued and returned to Libya, he said. The coastguard had recovered one body so far."


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

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