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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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April 2017

CoE: Parliamentary Assembly: Migration crisis: call for improved funding for emergency situations (link):

"“It is the political and moral responsibility of all European countries to contribute financially to dealing with the current migration and refugee crisis, according to the means at their disposal,” declared PACE today. The Assembly went on to say that these countries must do their utmost to allocate funds where needs are greatest, keeping administrative costs and structural obstacles to a minimum.

Parliamentarians also expressed regret over the fact that the complex decision-making and budgetary procedures and slow implementation of EU programmes on the ground, make it difficult to put the necessary infrastructure in place and provide assistance in a timely manner."

See: Report (pdf)


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (25.4.17)
EU: Migration monitoring in the Mediterranean region – Libyan military to be linked up to European surveillance systems (Matthias Monroy, link):

"The Mediterranean countries of the EU are establishing a network to facilitate communication between armed forces and the border police. Libya, Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia are also set to take part. This would make them, through the back door, part of the surveillance system EUROSUR. Refugees could then be seized on the open seas before being returned to Libya."

And see: Answer to a parliamentary question given by Commissioner Avramopoulos on behalf of the Commission (EP, link):

"The satellite-supported communication infrastructure of the Seahorse Mediterranean network will be established in 2017, if the security situation in Libya allows, and will enable the Libyan Coast Guard to exchange information on incidents and contribute to rescue operations.

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency will support this cooperation with regular monitoring and surveillance information.

Regional engagement of Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt in the Seahorse network is ongoing. In the framework of the EU-Tunisia high political level dialogue on security and the fight on terrorism, held on 19 January 2017, Tunisia has been encouraged to join the Seahorse project by joining the network and participating to the training.

The same approach was followed in a bilateral meeting with Egypt in the margins of the Valletta Summit on 8 February 2017 and with Algeria at the 7th sub-committee on justice and home affairs on 22 February 2017."

GREECE: Refugees drown off Greek coast, others start hunger strike in Lesbos camp (Deutsche Welle, link):

"At least 15 bodies were recovered by vessels from Greece's navy and the EU's Frontex agency on Monday. The Greek coastguard said one of its patrol vessels rescued two women, including one who was pregnant.

Authorities said the dead comprised two children, four women and nine men.

(...)

On Saturday in Rome, Pope Francis described Lesbos arrival centers he visited last year as "concentration camps," and urged European nations to provide relief by receiving those "left there inside."

At Moria, one of the camps on Lesbos, where the statuses of 13,800 refugees remain unresolved, 14 Kurds from Syria remain on hunger strike.

They began their protest against the slow processing of their appeals on Friday, sitting in blankets in front of the camp's asylum bureau."

EU: International Commission of Jurists: comments on the new Asylum Procedures Regulation and Reception Conditions Directive

The International Commission of Jurists has published two new notes offering critical observations on the EU's proposed Asylum Procedures Regulation and Reception Conditions Directive, noting with regular to the former that "the areas most impacted include access to legal information; legal assistance, representation and legal aid; accelerated and border procedures; and access to an effective remedy."

Immigrant detention: a prospering business (The Prisma, link):

"Four multinationals manage 7 of the 9 detention centres in the United Kingdom, with the contracts they sign worth millions of pounds. Nevertheless, there are complaints, allegations and deaths amidst what is happening under their management. Which are they and how can this system be explained? "

And see: UK: Behave or get deported, says G4S (OpenDemocracy, link):

"EXCLUSIVE: The world’s biggest security company, landlord to asylum-seekers, threatens tenants with expulsion from the UK.

About 900 people who are seeking asylum live in the city of Sheffield, in South Yorkshire. For five years G4S, the world’s largest security company, has held the government contract to accommodate them whilst they await the outcome of their claims for asylum."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (22-24.4.17)
Migrants and refugees are "routinely abused by law enforcement officials in the Western Balkans"

Migrants and refugees in the Western Balkans who are trying to access the territory of the EU "are being routinely abused by law enforcement officials," who are "subjecting people to violence and intimidation and denying access to asylum procedures to those seeking international protection," says a new report by Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, the Macedonian Young Lawyers Association and Oxfam.

GREECE: At least eight drown as migrant boat sinks off Greece's Lesbos island (Irish Independent, link):

"At least eight people, including a child, drowned when an inflatable boat carrying refugees and migrants sank off Greece's Lesbos island, the Greek coastguard said on Monday.

The United Nation refugee agency UNHCR said the number of dead was at least 12. Citing survivors, it said 25 people were on board.

Two survivors, one of whom is pregnant, were taken to the island's main hospital, the coastguard said."

Constructing a Deadly Void - How European authorities continue to use Migrant Death as Deterrent while criminalising Rescuers (Alarmphone, link):

"The Easter weekend saw one of the biggest Search and Rescue (SAR) operations carried out in the Mediterranean Sea in the past few years, with 8,360 people rescued between Friday the 14th and Sunday the 16th of April 2017. The WatchTheMed Alarm Phone network was involved in 2 emergency cases and could observe first-hand both the sheer inadequacy of rescue efforts of EU authorities and the crucial contribution of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in preventing instances of mass dying at sea, which we had to witness so often in the past."

EU pays for "watch towers" on the Georgia-Turkey border

The recent newsletter of the Eastern Partnership Panel on migration provides updates from the first quarter of 2017 on relations between the EU and the 'Eastern Partnership' countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. This includes events such as the EU providing €3.4 million of "communication, surveillance and detection equipment for the strengthening of Georgia’s capabilities of guarding the green border with Turkey," including "watch towers".

AUSTRIA-CZECH REPUBLIC: Chechen refugee "spent ten weeks in Czech custody because he found himself in a legal vacuum outside Austria"

"Mukuschev spent ten weeks in Czech custody also because he found himself in a legal vacuum outside Austria. For the Czech court, he was still a Russian citizen, in spite of his long stay in Vienna. The Austrian authorities could not support him like they support Austrian citizens, since asylum holders do not enjoy their host country's full legal protection abroad."

UK: Petition: Stop using NHS patients’ personal information for immigration enforcement (38 Degrees, link):

"The UK government and NHS Digital, the NHS body that stores patient information, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in January to give the Home Office easier access to patient information. This allows immigration officials to use NHS patients’ personal details, such as their addresses, to track down, arrest and deport undocumented migrants.

Patient confidentiality is essential for NHS staff to be able to do their job – and yet there has been no consultation with NHS staff or the public about this deal. Concerns raised by medical organisations have been ignored and the agreement was made in secret.

The deal makes some of the UK’s most vulnerable people scared of getting healthcare. The medical charity Doctors of the World regularly sees people in urgent need, including pregnant women and cancer sufferers, who are scared to see a doctor for fear that their details will be passed on. Creating a society where everyone can see a doctor easily and safely is also important for public health.

Sign the petition to demand that NHS Digital withdraws from the MOU and no longer provides information to the Home Office, so that our healthcare service is safe for everyone living in UK."

See: Crackdown on migrants forces NHS doctors to 'act as border guards' (The Guardian, link)

GREECE: A Co-operative Way Out of Exploitation: Reflections on the Manolada Strawberries Case (Leiden Law Blog, link):

"It is important to not see this case as an isolated incident. Exploitative labour practices at the expense of irregular economic migrants continues to be a reality in Greece and other EU countries, with thousands seeking to eke a living as agrarian day labourers. Having indebted themselves and their families in paying the extortionate sums demanded by traffickers for their dangerous passage to Europe, these individuals are constrained to accept any form of work available, under any terms. Due to their undocumented status, they are at the mercy of anyone willing to hire them, thereby perpetuating conditions of modern slavery.

Yet in spite of the de-humanising conditions in which these men and women work, and despite their victimisation, they are not stripped of their agency or dignity. In the absence of supportive civic spaces, they create their own, in the shape of informal evening markets where they socialise and sell work gear and food products from home. They aid each other in making their living conditions more bearable by planting vegetable gardens, in remitting money to their families back in their home countries, and in reaching out to NGOs for support and legal advice, after incidents like the Manolada shooting. This is one of several examples of self-organisation around Europe where migrant workers create supportive structures for themselves. This solidarity among migrant workers can be institutionalised through forming social cooperatives for migrant workers."

EU: Fundamental Rights Agency report on migration situation in the EU, 1-31 March 2017

"Since November 2016, FRA’s monthly reports highlight key developments in 14 Member States: Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden. This month’s highlights are published alongside full country reports. No focus section is being published this month."

CYPRUS: NGOs call on the Ministry of Interior to re-examine the application of the stateless Kurds for citizenship (KISA, link):

"Last Friday, 07/04/17, stateless Kurds from Syria (Ajanib), decided to stage as yet another protest with the aim of getting their applications for Cypriot citizenship re-examined. The protesters have set up tents outside the presidential palace and are calling on the President of the Republic to intervene in order for the Ministry of Interior to re-examine the unjustified and arbitrary rejection of their applications. The undersigned NGOs consider the requests of the protesters to be legitimate and support their struggle.

It is reminded that the said persons have been fighting for access to their rights for more than two years now and that on 18May 2015, the Ministry of Interior himself and the General Director of the Ministry, blaming the inflexible attitude of the competent authorities for granting the status of recognised refugee, urged them to apply for Cypriot citizenship. In fact, three of the protesters were then granted the Cypriot citizenship, while the Ministry suggested to the remaining persons to reapply after a year, when they would have completed the required residence period in the Republic."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (20-21.4.17)
Biometric data exchange with the US military: Europol seconds liaison officer for Operation Gallant Phoenix (link):

"Police forces in the EU member states could be able to use fingerprints and DNA traces collected by the US military in Syria and Iraq in the near future. Intelligence services would also be granted access....

Alongside Operation Gallant Phoenix, the US Government has offered to set up a database on “foreign fighters” for a number of EU member states and to compare this information with the biometric data of incoming refugees. According to another paper by the current Presidency of the Council of the European Union, this is “battlefield data from Syria and Iraq and other conflict zones”.

See: Outcome of the EU – US Justice and Home Affairs Senior Officials Meeting, Valletta, 1-2 March 2017 (LIMITE doc no: 7163-17, pdf) and Security checks in case of irregular immigration - mapping exercise (LIMITE doc no 6717-17, pdf)

Danish anti-immigration politics hurting national economy, Denmark’s Finance Ministry data shows (Daily Sabah, link):

"The Finance Ministry of Denmark, a country which has displayed a xenophobic attitude towards migrants in the past, has made calculations which show that immigration is indeed beneficial for the country and that Denmark's economy needs refugees and immigrants."

Are You Syrious (20.4.17, link)

Feature: Racist attacks on Chios

"Today a group of local radical right winged militants, reportedly Golden Dawn, attacked refugees whilst they held a protest against Salvamento Marítimo Humanitario, a Spanish NGO that has been helping refugees on Chios. The NGO is in the process of opening a new clinic on the island and was targeted today by a group of fascists that started protesting at in the morning and physically attacked some refugees outside the Chios Labor Center before they proceeded later in the evening to surround Souda camp and throw stones at the compound......"

Mediterranean Sea: Two NGOs have got together and managed to get and start using a plane to help in their rescue missions at sea

"Sea-Watch together with the Humanitarian Pilots Initiative - HPI deployed a small airplane in the area of the Mediterranean where most shipwrecks happen in order to patrol the Mediterranean graveyard as well from the air. “The “moonbird” will be operating the whole summer to help coordinate rescue missions, to reinforce the pressure on the EU which is letting people die in the Mediterranean and to prevent more shipwrecks from happening, as happened during this Eastern weekend...."

Greece: There was another busy day for the teams on the islands as boats keep arriving

"Today one boat landed on Samos in the morning with 27 people on board, 19 men, 3 women and 5 children from Egypt, Syria, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Dominican Republic and Iraq.

On Chios on boat arrived last night with 12 people on board, 4 men, 3 women and 5 children, all in good health."

Italy

"In another report of abuse of power, Baobab Experience told us how the police in Rome took 60 refugees to the station while their belongings were put in the trash."

Refugees stranded for 30 hours before rescue in Mediterranean - Maritime log passed to the Guardian reveals rising panic of 100 people during agonising wait on dinghy (Guardian, link):

"A hundred refugees and migrants crammed into a small dinghy that started taking in water in the Mediterranean endured an agonising 30-hour wait before they were rescued, a maritime log passed to the Guardian has revealed.

The incident happened over the Easter weekend, the unofficial start of the “sailing season”, which sees increased numbers of people attempting the crossing from Africa to Europe as the weather improves. Twenty children and 10 women, one of them pregnant, were among the passengers on the overcrowded dinghy. NGO rescues off Libya encourage traffickers, says EU borders chief...

The log was passed to the Guardian by Watch The Med’s Alarmphone network, an NGO which passes distress calls from migrant boats to the Italian coastguard so that a rescue can be coordinated."

Council of the European Union: Relocations, Eurodac & Skilled migrants

Implementation of Relocation Commitments (LIMITE doc no:, 8168-17, pdf):

The Note asks: "How many applicants for international protection will you be relocating from Greece and Italy over the coming five months (May-September) and how many will you be relocating per month?"

The latest 11th Report on relocation by the Commission says that: "Right now, Malta and Finland are the only two Member States so far on track to meet their obligations in time for both Italy and Greece."

And records that since September 2015 only 11,339 refugees have been relocated out of 63,302 from Greece (just 18%) and 5,001 of 34,953 from Italy (just 14%)

Eurodac Regulation: Inclusion of colour copies of passport or ID documents in Eurodac (LIMITE doc no: 8221-17, pdf):

"Where available, a scanned colour copy of an identity or travel document, and if not available, of any other document which could facilitate the identification of the third-country national or stateless person for return purposes.... Most Member States indicated that while the document should be scanned and uploaded in Eurodac immediately, establishing the authenticity of the documents should be done at a later stage."

Proposal for a Directive on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of highly skilled employment (LIMITE doc no: 8280-17, 76 pages, pdf): Latest Council negotiating position with 152 Member State positions in Footnotes.

Inside Europe: A helping hand for refugees in Greece (DW, video, link)

"The Greek government has been trying to close refugee camps and rehouse about 10,000 migrants and refugees in the coutnry. Some have already been moved to apartments or hotel rooms in cities and are waiting for their asylum and relocation requests to be approved. In Thessaloniki Greece's second largest city the majority of local people have welcomed their new neighbours. Alexia Kalaitzi reports."

Greece: Two far-right bullies arrested for attacking refugees in Souda hot spot, Chios (Keep Talking Greece, link):

"Two people belonging to the far-right political spectrum have been arrested and taken to the prosecutor. They are accused of attacking refugees in the surrounding area of ?? the hot spot of Souda on the island of Chios.

The two were identified by their victims, while one of them was being transferred to hospital to receive first aid for injuries."

Greece: Over 830 arrivals on the islands (News That Moves, link):

"Around 40 people per day are continuing to arrive on the Greek islands, data from the Greek government shows.

More than 830 people arrived on the islands between April 1st and April 20th. In March, 1,600 crossed from Turkey to the Greek islands, with 50 arrivals daily on average. In February, some 1,000 people arrived on Greek islands."

SPAIN: Report denounces the radicalisation of policies that violate fundamental rights at Spain's southern border

Press release published by the Andalucian Association for Human Rights (Associación Pro Derechos Humanos de Andalucía, APDHA) on 29 March 2017. Emphasis in original.

APDHA denounces the radicalisation of policies that violate fundamental rights at the southern border - During 2016 deaths increased 34% at European coasts and 125% at Spanish coasts.

GREECE: MEDECINS DU MONDE - DELEGATION HELLENIQUE: Submission to the UN Human Rights Committee on the follow-up to the concluding observations on Greece (pdf):

"MdM Greece has, since the first moment, been present and active in the refugee-migrant crisis, reinforcing its ongoing and already existing structures and programs to respond to the increasing and pressing needs of the high numbers of refugees arriving daily and residing for longer periods in Greece. At the same time, MdM Greece has undertaken new initiatives intervening in those places where third-country nationals concentrate, such as the usual entry and exit points for refugees in Greece."

Abandoned refugees will eventually leave Greece, legally or illegally (The New Arab, link):

"According to official sources, 62,156 refugees are at the moment living in Greece, with 14,268 accommodated in official facilities on the Aegean islands, prohibited from travelling to the mainland until their asylum applications are processed.

These refugees have been stranded since March 2016, in formal and makeshift camps around the country.

On the first anniversary of the EU-Turkey refugee deal in March, thousands of refugees, along with their supporters, gathered in central Athens.

"We are humans. We demand our rights," they shouted in the streets of the Greek capital. "Open the borders."

Return of the Fast Track? (Detention Action, link):

"ustice Secretary, Liz Truss, announced proposals to introduce a fast track system to process the deportation of detained asylum-seekers and ex-offenders who have completed prison sentences in the UK. The new proposals will be considered by the Tribunal Procedure Committee (TPC), a non-departmental body, responsible for making rules that govern the practice and procedure in the First-tier Tribunal and the Upper Tribunal. Last year, the TPC refused to set rules for a new fast track system."

See also: Government publishes plans for revamped express deportation system (Statewatch)

PORTUGAL: How to support refugees – European experiences of volunteer work for and with refugees (EUalter, link):

"Refugees are one of the most vulnerable populations, and therefore need safe and professional care and support. Volunteers’ contribution can be an important part of it as it is the collective work of people all around the world that will eventually make a difference."

Greece: Survey shows divided opinions on refugees (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Only 5 percent of refugees currently living in Athens want to remain in Greece, with the rest all keen to continue their journeys toward western and northern Europe, particularly Germany, according to survey carried out by Public Issue on behalf of Athens City Hall’s observatory for refugees and made public on Wednesday.

The same research showed that most Greeks want authorities to show solidarity to refugees and provide them with schooling and healthcare, but do not want them to stay in the country permanently."

Hungary will cease providing Kiskunhalas asylum-seekers with food by end of April (Budapest Beacon, link):

"Asylum-seekers at the camp were first told last week that the funds they receive from the Hungarian state for purchasing food will be withdrawn, a source inside the camp told the Budapest Beacon. At the same time, refugees were told that the camp will not offer them food provisions directly either.

According to the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, individuals currently in their first asylum procedure and those with protection status will be taken Thursday to Vámosszabadi refugee camp, near the border with Slovakia. An estimated eight to ten people, including a pregnant woman, will remain in Kiskunhalas but will not be provided with any food or medical services after April 28."

Attacks on migrant homes double in Austria (The Local.at, link):

" Austria recorded a sharp rise in attacks against migrant shelters last year, with 49 cases that mostly went unsolved compared to 25 in 2015, authorities said Friday.

The incidents, revealed in a response by the interior ministry to a parliamentary enquiry, ranged from racist graffiti to arson, stones being thrown through windows and gas pipes being slashed.

According to opposition lawmaker Albert Steinhauser who made the enquiry, 44 of the incidents that were clearly motivated by hatred.

Steinhauser told the Austria Press Agency (APA) that in 77 percent of the cases, police had not managed to track down the culprits."

Are You Syrious (19.4.17, link)

GERMANY

"The German State of Hesse plans mandatory residence for refugees. Political parties plan to dictate the place of residency for refugees in order to prevent the formation of ghettos in major cities, to ensure that no one can receive their social welfare more than once (by only paying it out at the mandatory place of residence), and to fight rural depopulation. As such, the entities behind the plan view it as a “win-win.” German integration law allows the States to issue such directives."

FRANCE

"Sursaut Citoyen has launched an interactive web map of relief and support efforts for refugees in France. It has a phonebook in order to help put everyone in touch with one another and speed communication and coordination. Check it out here.

In a report by Europe 1, information about the informal and formal camps around Paris was published."

MEDITERRANEAN SEA

"Horror and grief on the sea again as MSF Sea reported that a woman had a miscarriage after watching her husband drown as they attempted to cross the sea. Additionally, a boat with the bodies of 28 people was found floating off of Libya, highlighting that the dangers at sea are not only in the water.

Commercial ships continue to pick up the slack for EU as Opielok Offshore Carriers picked up a total of nine boats on the sea, rescuing a total of over one thousand people. Much thanks and support to the commercial ships who are saving lives around the clock.

Additionally, two boats carrying 199 people were intercepted by the Turkish coast guard on the 19th of April."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (19.4.17)
GREECE: Detention centres for migrants and refugees on Greek islands at 150% of capacity

The latest figures released by the Greek government show that the "strutures" and "hosting facilities" used to hold migrants and refugees on Greece's Aegean islands - principally Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos - currently have 13,003 "guests" but officially room for just 8,696 people.

See: Summary statement of refugee flows at 10:00 18.4.2017 (pdf)

EU-GREECE: Report on asylum process: delays, lack of advice and assistance, controversial involvement of EU asylum office

A new report by AITIMA details the problems faced by asylum-seekers in Greece, including a lack of access to the asylum procedure, the issues raised by restrictions on residence that confine people to islands in the Aegean, the "extremely limited" legal advice and assistance available, and the involvement of the European Asylum Support Office in the first instance asylum procedure that "raises issues of competence".

FRANCE-UK: Child refugees in northern France facing exploitation and violence on a daily basis, Unicef warns (The Independent, link):

"Child refugees in northern France are facing exploitation and violence on a daily basis?, including threats from adult men armed with knives and machetes, Unicef has warned.

An alarming report has revealed that unaccompanied minors who lived in the Grande-Synthe refugee camp in Dunkirk before it burnt down last week were “constantly fearful” of sexual abuse and attacks with weapons, and that no one – including the police – was there to care for them or to protect them.

In a series of interviews conducted by Unicef last month, 13 unaccompanied minors said due to brutal treatment by the authorities in France during their journeys, they had turned to smugglers and traffickers who were offering information and apparent protection, but who in turn abused and exploited them.

The report also found that despite frequent contacts with the authorities in European countries on their journeys towards the UK, children have repeatedly been ill-informed about their legal rights to protection, including their right to be reunited with their families."

EU-AFRICA: Africa-Frontex Intelligence Community report 2016: "an unparalleled platform for information-sharing and joint analysis"

The Africa-Frontex Intelligence Community (AFIC) "has now reached an enhanced level of maturity," according to the body's annual report for 2016, and is an "unparalleled platform for information-sharing and joint analysis with African countries" which has "captured further attention from the key policy makers in Europe and Africa."

UK: Government publishes plans for revamped express deportation system

"A new fast-track system to deport detained asylum seekers and criminals who are foreign nationals has been proposed by the justice secretary, Liz Truss.

Her proposed rules will mean the time taken to hear the appeals of about 2,000 people against being removed from Britain each year will be capped at between 25 and 28 working days."

UK: Probe into death at immigration detention centre (Migrants' Rights Network, link):

"An investigation has been launched into the death of a 43-year-old man in an immigration removal centre on 9 April. The 43-year-old man, who has not yet been named, was being held at the Verne immigration removal centre in Portland, Dorset."

EU: Thousands of migrants rescued from Mediterranean in three days (CNN, link):

"Italian authorities were still bringing migrants and refugees to shore Monday after one of the busiest weekends ever for rescue services operating in the central Mediterranean sea.
At least 8,500 refugees and migrants were plucked from small boats over the past three days in 73 separate rescue operations, the Italian Coastguard told CNN Monday.

Thirteen bodies were recovered, including a pregnant woman and an eight-year-old boy. It is not known how many died before they were sighted. "

ITALY: 200-bed Lampedusa center overflowing with 1,000 migrants (ANSA, link):

"Almost a thousand migrants arrived on the island of Lampedusa over Easter weekend. Four women were among the arrivals, including one pregnant one, as were four injured men.

The number hosted on the island's reception center and hotspot thus stands at 1,040, compared with a just over 200-person capacity. In order to deal with the latest arrivals, bunk beds have been set up and mattresses have been laid on the floors. The Red Cross, which runs the center, is in charge of the lodgings. During the day and while awaiting transfer to other centers, the guests leave through a hole in the fence and remain in the vicinity."

EU-LIBYA: Circumventing International Law: The EU’s Responsibility for Rights of Migrants Returned to Libya Under Operation Sophia (The Comparative Jurist, link):

"From January to October 2016, nearly 160,000 refugees crossed the Mediterranean to Italy. In response to the smuggling and trafficking across the Mediterranean, the European Union created Operation Sophia. However, Operation Sophia has resulted in migrant and refugee boats being intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard and being returned to Libya. Through the Operation Sophia training program, the EU has effectively delegated European border control to the Libyan Coast Guard. This practice allows the EU to evade both their duty of non-refoulement and duty to rescue distressed persons at sea. The EU has trained Libyans to conduct actions which the EU could not legally accomplish itself under international law, and is therefore violating international human rights law by aiding and assisting Libya’s wrongful actions."

GERMANY: How does cleaning the Lager toilet for 80 Cents per hour integrate you into the society? (Refugee Movement, link):

"INTERVIEW WITH AN ACTIVIST FROM WOMEN IN EXILE

WIE: We hearing that they are forcing people to work in the Lagers, do you have any idea or experience about this?

A:Yes that is very true. They are forcing people to work in the Lagers and I am one of the victims of this policy. They told me I should work in the Lager and that they will pay me 80 Cents per hour. I told them I am going to school, and though I would like to work, I have no time since I cannot combine both. But they said no. I would have to work because if I didn’t they would cut my social money for food. They also said that I have to work because this work would help me to integrate with the society. I said: That’s not true because I know that without the language I can’t interact with the community. I told them to wait until I get done with my language course and then I can come back to work since then I will understand everything in German. But they said no. I would have to work first."

IRELAND: Mum forced to carry sick child home from hospital on her back (Connact Tribune, link):

"A mother of two carried her five-years-old sick child home from hospital to Salthill, because she couldn’t afford transport.

The woman and children are asylum seekers living at the Eglinton Direct Provision centre in Salthill. The family has sought asylum in Ireland within the past year.

After receiving treatment, the child was released from the care of UHG but they had no transport to bring them back to Salthill.

The Eglinton is on a bus route, the 401, but it does not pass-by UHG. In any event, it is understood the child was discharged late in the evening when bus services aren’t operating.

The woman receives a weekly allowance of €19.10 per week, and so could not afford to take a taxi home. Instead, she carried her son on her back and walked the two miles from UHG to Salthill."

EU: EIB: Council agrees to increase funding to address migration issues (press release, pdf)

"The Council has agreed to additional funding by the European Investment Bank for projects outside the EU that address migration issues.

Up to €3.7 billion would be earmarked for projects that address the root causes of migration and the needs of transit and host communities.

On 5 April 2017, EU ambassadors asked the presidency to start negotiations with the European Parliament. They approved a mandate for the negotiations, on behalf of the Council.

A first 'trilogue' meeting with the Parliament and the Commission is scheduled for 12 April 2017."

ITALY: Refugees bring Italian village back to life (New Europe, link):

"The laughter of a small group of refugees has broken the silence of a once-dying village in the foothills of the Aspromonte mountains in southern Italy.

As reported by the Agence France-Presse (AFP), the tiny village of Sant’Alessio has been welcoming families and vulnerable migrants for three years in a project which not only provides humanitarian assistance but brings with it invaluable economic and social benefits.

Over the years the village has dwindled to only 330 inhabitants, many of them elderly. The steep cobbled streets are deserted and most windows are shuttered, residents having left over the years for better work opportunities in Turin, Milan or as far away as Australia.

In an attempt to reverse the trend, however, since 2014 the council has been renting eight of these empty flats to house up to 35 migrants at a time as part of the national SPRAR network (Protection System for Asylum Seekers and Refugees)."

UK: Charter flights: ‘when politics come before people’ (Detention Action, link):

"The use of charter flights to facilitate deportation is not uncommon. A Freedom of Information request by End Deportations found that more than 1,500 people were deported on charter flights to Albania, Pakistan, Nigeria and Ghana and Jamaica in 2016. The flights come with little advance warning, people facing deportation often being informed shortly before the flight is due to depart.

After the departure of the flight to Jamaica in March, I caught up with one of our clients, David*. Just days before the flight was due to take off, David was told that he would be removed on a charter flight. Not long before the flight took off he was granted a last minute reprieve following an intervention from his lawyer."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (14-18.4.17)
Italy: 8,500 migrant arrivals in 3 days,13 dead (ANSA, link):

"Thirteen migrants died as some 8,500 asylum seekers washed up on Italy's shores over the Easter weekend, leaving the interior ministry grappling with thousands of resettlements..."

Fire at the Grand Synthe Camp : minors have been abandoned (passeursdhospitalites, link);

"The Grande-Synthe refugee camp near Dunkirk was a place of contradictions. It had been created by the municipality and Médecins Sans Frontières to respond to a disastrous material situation on the site where an Exile camp was once and for several years. A disastrous situation due to the very rapid increase in the number of Exiles, from less than one hundred people in the Spring of 2015 to nearly three thousand in November of the same year."

Offenses against asylum homes in Germany remain high in number (Daily Sabah, link):

"German authorities say there were 169 violent offenses against homes for asylum-seekers last year, almost as many as in 2015, though the figures sank as the year progressed.

The Federal Criminal Police Office said Tuesday that the number of violent offenses compared with 177 the previous years.

In all, authorities counted 994 offenses against asylum shelters in 2016, a little below the previous year's 1,031. The police office said that most of them had a far-right motive."

Judges proposing tribunals for migrant cases (Prague Daily Monitor, link):

"Czech courts are so overburdened with the cases relating to refugees that some judges have proposed the establishment of special tribunals to only deal with the asylum agenda, daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) wrote on Saturday.

There is the threat that if the measures are not taken, the verdicts on refugees, which have a priority under law, may paralyse courts if there is a large migrant wave, MfD writes.

In 2015, when the migrant wave came to a head, regional courts had to deal with some 586 new cases associated with "international protection," it adds.

However, the figure soared to almost 800 last year."

Are You Syrious (17.4.17, link)

GREECE: In case of rejected asylum request

"News That Moves issued new Rumors on what can be done if your application gets rejected. As confirmed by IOM, people hosted on Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos, who have entered Greece after March 20th, 2016 and whose asylum request has been rejected, have five days to either appeal against the rejection decision or ask for assistance from IOM for voluntary return to their home country if eligible, writes NTM. Find more information here."

ITALY

"This morning, ship Chimera arrived in Porto Empedocle with 447 migrants (352 men, 83 women and 13 minors). The people rescued from three boats totaled 451 (145, 157 and 149 migrants respectively). Four migrants were taken to Lampedusa. In the last two days, a total amount of 4,500 people have been rescued, including children."

Around 13,000 still on the islands (News That Moves, link):

"Despite arrivals dramatically dropping since the EU-Turkey deal was signed in 2016, the situation on the Greek islands remain difficult, with thousands of migrants and refugees stuck in substandards camps for many months, unable to leave for the Greek mainland.

Greek government data show that currently around 13,000 people are still hosted on the islands, with more than half in official sites and the remaining in other hosting facilities (UNHCR and other state run facilities)."

EU 'leaving migrants to drown' say rescuers who saved 2,000 from Mediterranean in single day (Independent, link) '

"We are where we’re needed, what’s the EU doing?'

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), a medical charity which has carried out hundreds of rescue operations in the Mediterranean since the beginning of the migrant crisis, has criticised Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard agency, who operate official EU patrols on migration routes.

MSF said in a series of tweets that NGOs were being forced to fill gaps in service provision left by the EU coastguard.

“Frontex Director says it’s a paradox that a third of rescues are done by NGOs. We agree. Where are Frontex boats in a day like this?” MSF tweeted.

“Many more people could have died in a day like this if we arrived a few hours later. We are where we’re needed, what’s the EU doing meanwhile?"#

Are You Syrious (16.4.17, link)

Minors put into detention centres

"Passeurs d’hospitalités reports that five young refugees will appear in court on Thursday in Calais, to decide whether their detention is legal and whether to extend their detention. The refugees claim to be minors but were declared as “adults”, with the police report saying all five were born on 1.1.1999, allowing them to be put in a detention centre and later deported from the country. On Friday, a camp close to Calais was destroyed, including the tents and personal belongings of around 20 people. There was no legal decision for the eviction and the destruction of personal belongings is illegal anyways. Three NGOs, Cabane juridique, le Réveil Voyageur and Utopia 56 have published a press release protesting against police violence in Calais, the lack of access to shelter, especially for minors, and the acceleration of placements into detention centres."

Migreurop Brief - April 2017 (link):

"Externalisation across the board : from the EU-Turkey arrangement to Migration Compacts in Africa."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (12-13.4.17)
Greece: Latest arrivals on 13 April show a big rise: 205 come in a day: Greek Ministry figures (pdf): Lesvos: 46, Chios: 121 and Samos: 38.

Greece: Submission to the UN Human Rights Committee on the follow-up to the concluding observations on Greece (Greek Helsinki Monitor, pdf):

"The three specific recommendations for which the HRCttee requested in 2015 from the authorities of Greece relevant information on their implementation so as to conducts in 2017 a follow-up are:

The State party should ensure that all allegations of unauthorized and disproportionate use of force by law-enforcement officials are thoroughly and promptly investigated by an independent authority, that the alleged perpetrators are prosecuted, that those found guilty are punished with sentences that are commensurate with the gravity of the offence, and that compensation is provided to the victims or their families....."

UK-EU: House of Lords Select Committee on the EU: External Affairs Sub-Committee Corrected oral evidence: Operation Sophia (pdf):

"Lord Horam: I think we should narrow it down a bit from this tour d’horizon, which is extremely interesting, and look from Europe’s point of view at the migration issues that Operation Sophia was trying to cope with. We are now trying to get better co-operation on the ground. Is that at all realistic, given the scenario?

Joseph Walker-Cousins: The chances of having any meaningful success as things are set up, under the political paradigm we have at the moment, are very limited. The EU and all its constituent parts and subordinate bodies now operating on the ground are being directed for political purposes to deal with the GNA.

Lord Horam: You think that is a mistake.

Joseph Walker-Cousins: The GNA are incapable as they currently stand of doing much."

Hungary: Calls for suspension of Dublin transfers and policy shift by Germany (AIDA, link):

"Following recent calls from ECRE and UNHCR for a suspension of transfers to Hungary under the Dublin Regulation, Germany announced steps to suspend transfers to the country on 11 April 2017."

Slovenia says tougher EU border checks ‘unacceptable’ (euractiv, link):

"Newly-introduced tougher checks on the EU’s external borders aimed at stopping suspected Islamist fighters from Iraq and Syria are “unacceptable” and should be amended, Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar said."

See: Statements by Slovenia and Croatia (pdf):

Slovenia: "In Slovenia's view, checks carried out systematically on all persons crossing the external borders, including those enjoying the right of free movement under Union Law, without targeted checks as a basic principle for efficient border checks and without taking into consideration justified exemptions, is a disproportionate measure in relation to the pursued objective of the change. Additional doubts to the efficiency of the new provisions of Article 7(2) of the Code are related to the possible transitional period for border checks at air borders that are especially vulnerable part of the external borders."

Croatia: "the Republic of Croatia regrets that these measures are to be implemented not only at the European Union's external borders but also at internal borders between Member States fully applying the Schengen acquis and Member States not yet fully applying the Schengen acquis. The title of the Regulation itself implies its application at the European Union's external borders, not at Schengen borders. For that precise reason, all Member States should have been treated equally."

Are You Syrious (12.4.17, link):

FEATURE: Europe’s response to Child Trafficking- ttoo little, too late.

"The relief efforts for Dunkirk after the devastating fire that leveled the camp are ongoing, however Calais Action released sobering information - 129 children still remain missing, most likely driven into the hands of traffickers lying in wait. Although we all anxiously wait for the recovery of these children, we know that the reality remains - that legislation targeting and marginalizing refugees only strengthens the power of evildoers...."

Rights of Child Ombudsman reports on Lesvos (News That Moves, link):

"Meetings were held with children and adolescents in eight shelters for unaccompanied minors, in a primary school, a secondary school, the informal school for refugee children at the open accommodation center of Kara Tepe, and at the Reception and Identification Center in Moria."

Refugee rescue group accuses EU border agency of conspiracy (euractiv, link):

"A Spanish NGO that has been rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean since 2016 accused the EU’s border control agency Frontex on Wednesday (12 April) of plotting to discredit private aid organisations in order to put off donors.

Allegations by Frontex that donor-funded rescue vessels may have colluded with traffickers at the end of last year prompted Italian prosecutors to begin an informal investigation into their funding sources.

“The declarations by Frontex and political authorities are intended to discredit our actions and erode our donors’ trust,” said Proactiva Open Arms head Riccardo Gatti."

Riot police stop refugees returning to Dunkirk camp destroyed by fire (Guardian, link): "Homeless families prepare for night on streets, refusing to sleep in cramped sports halls they say are unsuitable for children."

European Commission: 11th report on relocation and annexes

Relocation and Resettlement: Steady progress made but more efforts needed to meet targets - Today, the Commission adopted its eleventh progress report on the EU's emergency relocation and resettlement schemes, assessing actions taken since 2 March 2017 (Press release, pdf):

"Whereas some Member States (Luxembourg and Portugal) are steadily progressing on their obligations for Greece and Italy, others (Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovakia) are relocating on a very limited basis. Whilst Austria has announced it will start relocating soon, others (Hungary and Poland) are still refusing to participate in the relocation scheme at all. So far, only two Member States (Malta and Finland) are on track to meet their obligations for both Italy and Greece in time."

Eleventh report on relocation and resettlement (COM 212-17, pdf)

Annex 1: Greece (pdf): Formally pledged: 19,603, Effectively Relocated: 11,339, Commitment legally foreseen in the Council Decisions: 63,302, % of legal commitment effectively relocated: 18%

Annex 2: Italy (pdf): Formally pledged: 10,659, Effectively Relocated: 5,001, Commitment legally foreseen in the Council Decisions: 34,953 % of legal commitment effectively relocated: 14%

Annex 3: (pdf): Relocations from Italy and Greece by 10 April 2017:

Annex 4: (pdf): Resettlement State of Play as of 10 April 2017, under 20 July 2015 Conclusions and under the "1:1 mechanism" with Turkey (in application since 4 April 2016)

A European Agenda: On security: State of play: April 2017(pdf): In same press release on terrorism and organised crime...

European Commission:

Protecting all children in migration: Commission outlines priority actions (Press release, pdf): "Over the past two years, a growing number of children in migration have arrived in the EU, many of them without their families."

The protection of children in migration (COM 211-17, pdf)

Implementation of the Action Plan on UAMs (2010-2014) (SWD 129-17, pdf)

Returns diplomacy: levers and tools (EU ISS, pdf):

"‘The EU has three main sources of leverage which it can put behind returns bargains: access to the single market (visa and trade concessions), its overseas spending (EU development aid and investment support) and diplomatic engagement.’"

Frontex: Arrival of migrants in March: Italy remains under pressure, Greece up from previous month (link):

"Italy remained under migratory pressure last month. The number of migrants arriving through the Central Mediterranean route in March rose by more than one-fifth to 10 800. This brought the total for the first three months of the year to nearly 24 250, almost 30% higher than the figure from the same period of 2016...

Better weather also helped boost the number of migrants arriving on the Greek islands in the Eastern Aegean to 1 690. This was up almost a half from February but only 6% of the figure from a year ago, when the EU-Turkey statement came into effect in the second half of the month.

Syrians, Iraqis and Pakistanis accounted for a majority of the detections on the Eastern Mediterranean route."

Italy: Migrants: 27,000 reported landings in 2017, up 35% on 2016 (ANSA, link):

" ROME, APRIL 12 - A reported 27,000 migrants have landed in Italy in 2017, up 35% on the same period last year, when a record 181,000 arrivals were overall recorded, according to data updated Tuesday and released by the interior ministry.

The majority of migrants hailed from Bangladesh (3,521), Nigeria (3,397) and Guinea (3,320).

Unaccompanied minors were 3,557, according to the data. Asylum seekers reallocated to other countries were 4,438, under a relocation program.

Despite a constant flow of arrivals, the number of migrants staying at reception centers was down to 175,480 people from the 176,554 registered on December 31 last year."

Hundreds of refugees missing after Dunkirk camp fire - About 900 people in temporary accommodation but 600 still unaccounted for, including unaccompanied children (Guardian, link):

"Hundreds of refugees and migrants are missing and facing a night in the open after a large fire ripped through the Dunkirk camp where they were living, destroying the wooden huts and leaving the site uninhabitable.

Officials spent Tuesday trying to find new shelter for the estimated 1,500 people who had been displaced. It is feared that the destruction of the country’s only official migrant camp will result in asylum seekers returning to sleeping rough along the coast near the Channel ports."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (11.4.17)
UNHCR urges suspension of transfers of asylum-seekers to Hungary under Dublin (UNHCR, link)

"UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today called for a temporary suspension of all transfers of asylum-seekers to Hungary from other European States under the Dublin Regulation. The Dublin regulation is an EU instrument that determines which European State is responsible for examining an asylum seeker’s application.

“The situation for asylum-seekers in Hungary, which was already of deep concern to UNHCR, has only gotten worse since the new law introducing mandatory detention for asylum-seekers came into effect,” said Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

“Given the worsening situation of asylum-seekers in Hungary, I urge States to suspend any Dublin transfer of asylum-seekers to this country until the Hungarian authorities bring their practices and policies in line with European and international law,” he added."

New evidence shows Frontex "quibbled with definitions of distress" to avoid search and rescue

A report recently published by The Intercept examines Frontex's Operation Triton - introduced as a meagre follow-up to the Italian-led Mare Nostrum search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean - and suggests that the available evidence shows that the EU border agency has been "deliberately patrolling in the wrong area and quibbling with definitions of distress, meaning that its ships would almost certainly arrive late [to distress calls], if at all." An accompanying article argues that recent claims by officials and politicians that non-profit search-and-rescue operations in and around Libyan waters act as a "pull factor" are overblown.

Evidence mounting for Hungary’s brutal treatment of migrants (Atlatszo, link):

"There is an increasing number of reports that Hungarian authorities are extremely brutal to migrants trying to get to Western Europe. Two representatives of the Helsinki Committee human rights advocacy visited a transit site in February and told Atlatszo.hu about experiences, where defenseless refugees were tied up with barbed wire or had dogs set on them."

Why jobs in special economic zones won’t solve the problems facing the world’s refugees (The Conversation, link):

"In a new book, two Oxford professors, Alexander Betts and Paul Collier, are calling on politicians to harness “the remarkable opportunities of globalisation” to reorient the refugee system away from humanitarian assistance and towards development. Focusing primarily on the arrival of large numbers of Syrian refugees in Europe during the course of 2015, they argue that the refugee system has failed to provide long-term solutions for refugees who are left festering in underfunded “humanitarian silos”.

(...)

The proposition is a simple one: provide companies with tax incentives and opportunities for trade in return for providing refugees with opportunities for work, autonomy and self-reliance. They argue this will create a “win-win” situation for both the developing countries which carry the burden of supporting the majority of the world’s refugees with limited resources, and the rich countries struggling politically to manage the consequences of increased irregular migration.

But as I argue in a review published in the journal Nature, neither the book’s diagnosis nor its vision take us closer to a solution because it engages only partially with the complex political and economic realities facing the world’s refugees."

EU: The case for a common European refugee policy (Bruegel, link):

"Legal and political issues left the management of the 2015-16 refugee crisis mostly in the hands of national governments, but this is incompatible with an integrated economic area that has largely abolished internal borders. It is also incompatible with some founding European Union principles, such as the existence of a common European policy on the mobility of people.

A greater role for European institutions and policies is needed both for policing the common borders and imposing common welcome policy standards for refugees, based on best practices. EU measures are also required to face the long-term problems related to immigration, as it is very likely that economic and demographic differences between the EU and neighbouring countries will lead to further crises in the future. Planning for this requires ample and dedicated resources, and a long-term strategy based on agreements with immigrants’ countries of origin, a task that no EU country can pursue alone."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (10.4.17)
EU-SUDAN: EU funds to Sudan may worsen fate of refugees (EUobserver, link)

"These improved EU-Sudan relations may also mean EU support for Sudan’s notorious Janjaweed militia, rebranded the Rapid Support Force (RSF) in 2013. And just like their Janjaweed predecessors, the RSF is well-known for its extensive human rights violations within Sudan...

the very same Rapid Support Force has also been hired to curb migration via EU funds. In January, the RSF thwarted an operation to smuggle a group of illegal migrants across the desert to Libya, according to what a state official from North Darfur told The Sudan Tribune, who added that the captured migrants came from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Yemen.

The RSF also said that it had handed over 1,500 alleged illegal migrants to the interior ministry earlier that month, claiming to have captured the migrants near the Sudan-Libya border in Northern State. The RSF’s involvement in anti-migration efforts was corroborated last August after RSF leader, Mohamed Hamdan “Hemeti”, explicitly claimed that his force had been patrolling the Sudan-Libya border on the EU’s behalf."

UK: The Hostile Environment: turning the UK into a nation of border cops (Corporate Watch, link):

"In 2012 Theresa May, then Home Secretary, announced a new approach to immigration: to make Britain a “hostile environment” for people who have “no right to be here”.The introduction of compulsory ID checks in hospitals, due to start this month, is just one element. The plan is to make it ever tougher for people without the right immigration papers to get a job, rent a flat, use a bank, drive a car, get medical treatment, send kids to school, or otherwise live a normal life.

This report outlines 13 of the main hostile environment policies introduced so far... [there are] three basic themes across all these measures: mass information sharing, criminalisation of migrants, and widespread citizen collaboration."

ITALY: Asylum system overhauled: "there are so many ways you can build walls: with concrete or with rules"

A new decree (the Minniti-Orlando immigration decree) has been heavily criticised by Lorenzo Trucco, president of the Association for Legal Studies on Immigration (ASGI), who notes that the new rules mean "the entire asylum system will be changed, for the worse," and that "there are so many ways you can build walls: with concrete or with rules."

See: Lorenzo Trucco (Asgi) on Minniti-Orlando decree : “A wall of laws that limit the right to asylum” (ASGI, link)

SPAIN: Interior minister announces three new migration detention centres

On Tuesday 4 April the Spanish interior minister, Juan Ignacio Zoido, announced the creation of three new migration detention centres (Centros de Internamiento de Extranjeros, CIEs) in Malaga, Algeciras and Madrid.

UK: 'It's a shambles': data shows most asylum seekers put in poorest parts of Britain (The Guardian, link):

"More than five times as many asylum seekers live in the poorest third of the country as in the richest third, according to a Guardian analysis, which has prompted leading politicians to call for a complete overhaul of the dispersal system.

MPs have labelled the way asylum seekers are distributed around Britain “appalling”, “dreadfully designed” and “a deeply unfair shambles” because of the way it disproportionately houses people in poor, Labour-voting areas in the north of England and Wales, as well as Glasgow."

EU-LIBYA: Libya: The strategy that wasn’t (CEPS, link):

"As a failed state in the European Union’s immediate neighbourhood that serves as a base camp for terrorists and a conduit for irregular migration to Europe, Libya is precisely the kind of place for which the EU’s foreign policy instruments were designed, or so one might think. Since the NATO intervention that helped oust Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the EU has deployed most of its crisis response approaches and instruments in the country, including new procedures set out in the 2013 review of the European External Action Service (EEAS), most notably a Political Framework for a Crisis Approach (PFCA).

Yet, almost nothing in Libya has followed the liberal peacebuilding playbook, which assumes an improving security situation followed by reconstruction and sustained democratic political transformation. Instead, the EU has struggled to make any impact while the ongoing chaos in the country has deepened divisions among member states, with migration control emerging as the lowest common denominator for EU action."

AUSTRIA: Attacks on refugee homes double in Austria (New Europe, link):

"Attacks on refugee accommodation have doubled in Austria, according to data revealed by the interior ministry.

The data was presented at the request of Albert Steinhauser, an opposition Green party politician, who said he was dismayed to find out that more than three quarters of the 49 recorded cases remain unsolved.

“The most important thing is for the interior ministry to take these incidents seriously and make every necessary effort to investigate,” he told the Austria Press Agency."

GREECE: Regarding the rumors on the imminent evacuation of refugee squats and the escalation of the anti-refugee policy (City Plaza, link):

"It looks like the government attack against the refugee housing squats is being escalated. Following the evacuation of the Thessaloniki squats in the summer, the Alkiviadou refugee housing squat and Villa Zografou were evacuated a few weeks ago. Following the statements by Minister of Public Order Nikos Toskas last week, regarding the evacuation of refugee housing squats, rumors and leaked information has been circulating, setting the stage for a new round of attacks."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (6-9.4.17)
1,350 rescued in Mediterranean (News That Moves, link):

"From Reuters: Ships from humanitarian organisations and the Italian Coast Guard rescued 1,350 migrants in 12 separate operations in the Mediterranean Sea on April 6th.

The rescue operations were coordinated by Italian coast guard vessels and included ships from NGOs Proactiva Open Arms and Sea Watch."

EU: Council of the European Union: High Level Working Group on Asylum and Migration (HLWG) (LIMITE doc no: 7430-17, pdf): With pages 5-32 on:

" GAMM UPDATE: 8 March 2017

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."

This covers: Part 1 - The regional processes; (A) The Prague Process (B) The Eastern Partnership Panel on Migration and Asylum (C) The Africa-EU Migration and Mobility Dialogue (D) The Rabat Process (E) The Budapest Process (F) The Khartoum Process (G) The ACP-EU Migration Dialogue (H) The EU-CELAC Migration Dialogue (I) The Valletta Summit

Part 2 - The bilateral dialogues (A) Turkey (B) Southern Mediterranean countries (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon) (C) Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus) (D) Russia (E) African countries (Cape Verde, Nigeria, Senegal, Ethiopia, South Africa) (F) Asian countries (China, India) (G) United States of America (H) Brazil

Part 3 - The global processes: Global Forum for Migration and Development, United Nations

And see: EU: Beyond the borders: overview of "external migration dialogues and processes" (Statewatch database)

EU Commission: Latest statistics: Relocations in the EU (6.4.17, pdf):

Greece: 11,339 relocations out of 63,336 needed, Italy: 5,001 out of 34,953 needed. Overall 27,393 pledges from Member States out of 160,000 called for.

and "Hotspots" situation in Greece and Italy (3.4.17, pdf)

Are You Syrious (8.4.17, link)

Denmark: No more transfers of vulnerable

"Denmark stops transferral of vulnerable refugees back to Greece, who already got protection in Greece. They stop the deportation to Greece on the grounds that there is no accommodation, no proper social system and no economic support for them when they have got their protection status in Greece."

Feature: Refugees left unprotected in Turkey

"A mob of about 30 armed people attacked today unprotected refugees in Izmir’s Torbali neighborhood. About 30 people were wounded, and over 500 forced to flee due to this attack.

According to the reports, we received from volunteers in Izmir, the attack that took place in Pamukyazi and was carried out on a rumor that a child was beaten by the Syrians. The attackers used scrubs and sticks. While running aways, some Syrians, including families were children, tried to stop cars to take them away, but nobody stopped to help people. After they left, their tents in a makeshift camp were destroyed...."

Mediterranian: SafePassage

"Since the beginning of this year, according to the IOM, 29,811 people came to Europe by sea. Most of them, over 80 percent, arrived to Italy, while the rest arrived in Greece and Spain.

“According to MOAS figures, the people we rescue come mainly from Sub-Saharan African and both East and West African countries, the 3 most common countries of origin being Nigeria, Eritrea, and Gambia. Many others we rescue come from Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. All of these are countries from which people are fleeing war, terrorism, poverty, repression and violence.”

Greece: While more people are coming, need for help is growing

"During Saturday, 38 people arrived at Samos, two from Syria and the rest from Algeria. For those who are already in Greece, and all those who are coming, more help is needed."

Macedonia; Unlawful detentions

"Macedonian Ombudsman on 4th of April visited the Reception Centre for Foreigners - Gazi Baba, only to discover a number of the people who have been kept in an unlawful detention. Those people are not registered and issued with documents for their detention...."

Viewpoint: Hindering humanitarianism: European Commission will not ensure protection for those supporting sans-papiers

A new European Commission evaluation of EU laws on migrant smuggling concludes there is a need to improve the situation around "the perceived risk of criminalisation of humanitarian assistance" to "irregular" migrants. The Commission argues that the answer to the problem is "effective implementation of the existing legal framework" - but it is the laws currently in place, which let Member States decide whether or not to punish humanitarian assistance, that permits the existence in some EU Member States of a very real risk of criminalisation.

See: Hindering humanitarianism: European Commission will not ensure protection for those supporting sans-papiers (pdf)


Eight European countries deport 50 more Nigerians today (Vanguard, link):

"Some 50 Nigerians were on Thursday deported from eight European countries for committing immigration-related offences.

The Nigerians were deported from Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Luxembourg, Austria, Belgium, Spain and Hungary. Their deportation is coming barely 48 hours after another set of 40 Nigerians were deported by the Italian Government, for similar reasons.

The fresh batch of deportees arrived at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMlA), Lagos at about 7.36 a.m. The deportees, comprising of 48 males and two females, were brought back in a chartered Privileged Time aircraft, with registration number EC-L20. ":

Letting people drown is not an EU value (euobserver, link):

"595. A nice round number, right? It refers to the dead and missing in the central Mediterranean, mostly between Libya and Italy, in the first three months of 2017. The known dead died from drowning, exposure, hypothermia, and suffocation. Horrible, agonising deaths.

24,474. This is a nicer number. It refers to the women, men, and children who made it safely to Italy this year, all of them plucked from flimsy, overcrowded boats by European vessels. Many were rescued by teams from nongovernmental organisations patrolling international waters just off Libya, where most migrant boats depart."

Stop feeding the beast! A review of ‘My Country: A work in progress’ (IRR News Service, link) by LIz Fekete:

"A play built around seventy long interviews with ‘leavers’ and ‘remainers’ about their feelings after the Brexit vote, inadvertently, provides insights into the immigration debate.

The liberal consensus on immigration has broken down. That’s what Brexit has taught us, or at least that’s what the establishment tells us that Brexit has taught us. The Conservative leadership risk no crisis of confidence within its ranks when it comes to pandering to anti-immigration sentiment – the nastier, the more hard-line, the better its coverage in the Daily Mail and the Sun.....

Once again, a door opens to a wider perspective – one in which immigration is merely a sign that stands in for something else, namely the indignities and dislocations that arise with the end of an era that promised full employment. Addressing the loss of meaning that ordinary people have experienced as their workplaces have been destroyed, and the dislocation of neighbourhoods and communities, that have been abandoned by successive governments, now that certainly is ‘a work in progress’."

Over 120 migrant arrivals recorded on Greek islands in 24 hours (.ekathimerini.com, link):

"A total of 124 migrants and refugees have landed on Greek shores in the past 24 hours, with 80 arriving on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos, 30 on Chios and 14 on Leros."

EU migration crisis: border agency accused of stirring controversy - Aid agencies hit back after Frontex claims they are colluding with people-traffickers in Mediterranean (Guardian, link)


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (4-5.4.17)
EU: Member States enthusiastic about Commission's "how low can you go?" deportation recommendations

The EU's Member States have given a warm welcome to recent proposals from the European Commission to lower human rights standards in order to increase the number of deportations, according to the secret minutes of a meeting of one of the Council's migration working parties which Statewatch is publishing here in full.

EU: Tusk on tour: statements from meetings in Bulgaria, Macedonia and Slovenia ignore the reality of the Balkan route

Donald Tusk, the recently re-elected President of the European Council, has recently been in Bulgaria, Macedonia and Slovenia where he emphasised the important role those countries have to play in guarding the "Balkan route" to central and northern Europe. The route has been followed by thousands of migrants and refugees and despite its official "closure" in March 2016, it remains in use and continues to be a lucrative business opportunity for people smugglers. Numerous countries have recently committed to working together more closely to try to ensure control.

BELGIUM: European Court of Human Rights: Detention of asylum-seeker at Belgian border did not infringe right to liberty and security

"In today’s Chamber judgment1 in the case of Thimothawes v. Belgium (application no. 39061/11) the European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority, that there had been:

no violation of Article 5 (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case concerned the five-month detention of an Egyptian asylum-seeker at the Belgian border.

The Court found in particular that any measure depriving a person of his liberty had to be prescribed by law. Where the legal provision in question originated in international law, only the domestic courts, except in the case of an arbitrary or manifestly unreasonable interpretation, were empowered to interpret domestic law pursuant to the supranational provisions in question. The Court only scrutinised the conformity of the effects of that interpretation with the Convention.

In the present case, the scrutiny of lawfulness conducted by the domestic courts of the detention order had taken account of the case-law of the Court. Moreover, the issue of the applicant’s mental health was not, on its own, sufficient for a finding that his detention had been arbitrary. Finally, the assessment of the facts of the case supported a finding that his period of detention had not been unreasonably long."

See: press release: Detention of an asylum-seeker at the Belgian border did not infringe the right to liberty and security secured under the Convention (pdf) and judgment: AFFAIRE THIMOTHAWES c. BELGIQUE (French only, application no. 39061/11, pdf)

GREECE: Returns to be Turkey to be accelerated as Chios at "breaking point" following attempted self-immolation

"As the inflow of undocumented migrants to the islands of the eastern Aegean rises with the improving weather, the government is planning action to ease the pressure on increasingly overcrowded reception centers.

In the coming days, Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas is expected to issue a circular, banning migrants who appeal against a rejection of their application for political asylum from a voluntary repatriation scheme being run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM)."

See: Greece to accelerate return of migrants to Turkey as arrivals pick up (Ekathimerini, link)

And: Mouzalas says situation on Chios has reached breaking point (Ekathimerini, link)

"Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas said on Friday that the situation at migrant camps in Chios has reached breaking point.

Speaking to Parliament in the aftermath of a suicide attempt of migrant that set himself on fire, Mouzalas said “the situation on Chios is exceeding its limits.”

According to the minister, 2,500 refugees and migrants have been transferred to the Greek mainland, while another 1200 moved by themselves."

TURKEY: Daily Sabah accusing foreign NGO’s working in humantarian aid for refugees (HarekAct, link):

"Daily Sabah published an article accusing foreign NGO’s active in Turkey “trying to degenerate the culture of Syrian refugees”, by teaching their children “how to become free”. The author, Yunus Paksoy, writes that “some vulnerable Syrians think that such foreign NGOs are being insensitive while others claim that they have a hidden agenda.”

As Harekact editorial team, we find the content of this news very controversial, but we think it should be published in order to show the exclusionary discourse of some newspapers towards foreign NGOs in the country."

See: Syrian parents feel threatened by foreign NGOs assimilating children (Daily Sabah, link)

EU: Council adopts conclusions on the promotion and protection of the rights of the child (press release, pdf):

"The Council adopted conclusions on the promotion and protection of the rights of the child. These conclusions follow the 'Guidelines for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child (2017) - Leave No Child Behind' adopted by the Council on 6 March 2017. With these guidelines, the EU reaffirmed its commitment to comprehensively protect and promote the rights of the child in its external human rights policy.

In line with the guidelines, the conclusions focus on promoting gender equality, ensuring the empowerment of girls, mainstreaming the rights of the child in all sectors and in all programming, and encouraging partner countries to adopt a national strategy on the rights of the child. The Council reaffirms the EU's support for the work of relevant international and regional actors in the field of children's rights, in particular within the United Nations framework. The Council reaffirms the EU's active engagement in the processes protecting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all refugee and migrant children."

See: Council Conclusions on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child (pdf) and: EU: Council adopts child rights guidelines days after Commission recommends more child detention (Statewatch News Online, 8 March 2017)

UK: New report on the impact of the "right to rent" scheme requiring immigration checks from landlords and letting agents

"This report examines the impact of the 'right to rent' scheme a year on from its nationwide roll-out in England. The scheme requires landlords and agents to check the immigration status of all prospective tenants and refuse a tenancy to irregular migrants. If they fail to fully comply with the scheme they face a fine of up to £3,000 or a prison sentence of up to five years. The report builds on JCWI's independent evaluation published in 2015.

The report reveals that foreigners and British citizens without passports, particularly those from ethnic minorities, are being discriminated against in the private rental housing market.

In addition, the Government is failing to adequately monitor the scheme to measure whether or not it is working as intended, or whether it is causing discrimination, enforcement under the scheme is low and there is no evidence to suggest that the scheme is encouraging irregular migrants to leave the UK."

See the report: Passport Please (Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, link)

EU-BELARUS: Schengen visa facilitation: jeopardised by fear of migrants? (Belarus Digest, link):

"Recent statements by Belarusian officials have confirmed that the country's citizens should not expect a more liberal visa regime with Europe in the foreseeable future. Belarus's decision to introduce a conditional visa-free regime for nationals of eighty countries, many of them European, does not mean Europe has to reciprocate.

Georgia and Ukraine, Belarus’s fellow inmates in the Soviet camp, will soon join Moldova in the group of countries which enjoy visa-free travel to the Schengen zone. Meanwhile, Belarusians are subject to the strictest Schengen visa regime amongst all Eastern European nations.

Differences between Minsk and Brussels over the readmission procedure, concerning migrants who attempt to cross the Belarusian border into the EU, have dashed hopes for imminent visa facilitation. Does this mean citizens of Belarus will continue to be targets of expensive, complicated, and sometimes humiliating visa procedures?"

And see: New detention centres part of €7 million EU migration project in Belarus (Statwatch News Online, 1 February 2017)

Italy brokers deal with Libyan tribes to curb migrant influx (euractiv, link):

"The Italian government said yesterday (2 April) that dozens of rival tribes in southern Libya had agreed to cooperate on securing the country’s borders in an effort to curb the influx of migrants trying to reach Europe.

Italy’s interior ministry said the 60 tribal leaders, notably the Tuareg of the southwest, the Toubou of the southeast, and the Arab tribe of Awlad Suleiman, had reached the 12-point deal after 72 hours of secret talks in Rome."

EU-Turkey deal fails to stop refugee flow (DW, link)

"A year after the EU-Turkey Deal came into force, thousands of refugees remain stranded in Greece. The most desperate try to reach Europe by any means. Marianna Karakoulaki and Dimitris Tosidis report from Thessaloniki."

Sisyphus ordeal for refugees in Greece (DW, link)

Living in abandoned wagons near Thessaloniki's railway station, refugees squeeze into tiny holes inside freight trains as they try to sneak out of Greece. DW's photojournalist Dimitris Tosidis met them in Thessaloniki.

Scotland demands powers to bring in more migrants (euractiv, link):

"As British PM Theresa May presses ahead with a hard Brexit and a retreat from the single market, Scotland said on Monday (3 April) that its distinct demographic trends require powers over immigration to support public services and the economy.

The Scottish government predicts that 90% of the population increase in Scotland over the next decade will come from net migration, both from international migration and from the rest of the UK."

Tusk says EU determined to keep Balkan migrants routes closed (Keep Talking Greece, link):

"The European Union is determined to stick to a deal with Turkey to stem the flow of undocumented migrants into the bloc, European Council President Donald Tusk said on Tuesday.

Tusk, who met Bulgaria’s President Rumen Radev, welcomed Sofia’s efforts to boost security on its southeastern border with Turkey to prevent migrants from crossing. He said Brussels would provide additional financing if the situation worsened.

“We are determined to keep routes of illegal migration in this region closed,” Tusk told reporters. “We remain committed to the full implementation of the EU-Turkey statement."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (1-3.4.17)
Greece: More than 1,600 new arrivals in March (News That Moves, link):

"March recorded a significant increase in arrivals of migrants and refugees to the Greek islands, month on month.

Data from the Coordinating Body for the Refugee Crisis Management shows that more than 1,600 people crossed by sea from Turkey to Lesvos, Chios, Samos, and other islands between March 1st and March 31th.

March was the month with the most arrivals to Greece in 2017.

In February, approximately 1,000 people arrived on Greek islands.

In January, about 1,400 crossed by sea from Turkey."

Afghans deported from Europe arrive home, to war and unemployment (Reuters, link):

"Two more planes carrying Afghans deported from Europe landed in Kabul this week, failed asylum seekers sent back under an agreement between the European Union and Afghan government.

The arrivals mean 248 people have been deported from Europe to Afghanistan this year, compared with 580 throughout 2016, said Hafiz Ahmad Miakhel, spokesman for the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations.

The number of Afghans deported from Europe is small compared to the thousands returning voluntarily, but deportations are rising and some migration experts say expelling people to a country where the government controls less than two thirds of territory amid a Taliban insurgency is wrong.

Fifteen deportees arrived by chartered flight from Germany on Tuesday, while 19 landed on Wednesday from Austria and 10 from Sweden. Another flight, from Finland, is scheduled to arrive on Tuesday."

UK: Five appear in court following 'brutal attack on asylum seeker in Croydon' (Evening Standard, link)

"Five people have appeared in court charged with violent disorder after an alleged hate crime left a teenage asylum seeker fighting for his life in Croydon.

Daryl Davis, 20, Danyelle Davis, 24, Barry Potts, 20, George Walder, 20, and Jack Walder, 24, spoke only to confirm their names and addresses during the short hearing at Croydon Magistrates' Court on Monday afternoon.

George Walder was also charged with racially aggravated grievous bodily harm.

Kurdish Iranian Reker Ahmed, 17, was chased and subjected to what police described as a "brutal attack" after a gang discovered he was an asylum seeker."

EU: Council of the European Union: Eurodac and Posted Workers

Council documents proposing extending the reach of Eurodac and including an passports and ID documents in the system.

EU: Council of the European Union: Resettlement: Proposal for a Regulation establishing a Union Resettlement Framework and amending Regulation (EU) No 516/2014 of the European Parliament and the Council (First reading) (LIMITE doc no: 7396-17, pdf): Extends its scope to include a "Humanitarian Admission Framework". With 128 Footnotes with Member States' positions

OPEN ARMS: PRESS RELEASE: Common Statement from the SAR NGOs operating in the Mediterranean Brussels – Badalona 31st March 2017 (pdf):

"As individual organisations, the attendees have come together in Brussels with the support of MEP Miguel Urban because of the on-going humanitarian crisis on Europe’s southern borders, and the Search and Rescue (SAR) NGOs ongoing essential efforts to save life at sea....

all attendees and representatives have agreed the objective and intent of the First Edition of the voluntary ‘Code of Conduct for Search and Rescue Operations undertaken by civil society Non-Governmental Organisations in in the Mediterranean Sea’ on the basis that the Code aligns with the three core areas for undertaking lawful SAR operations, those being; following accepted international humanitarian principles, defending fundamental human rights and the professionalization of operational conduct."

March 2017


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (30-31.3.17)
EU: Fundamental Rights Agency: Taking the ‘crisis’ out of migration: integration in the EU (press release, pdf):

"Risk of school segregation, discrimination and restrictions to political participation can form insurmountable barriers to the integration of migrants in EU society, as a new report from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) shows. It examines integration strategies across the EU, providing clear evidence of the successes and failures of current policy and recommending changes in order to build a stronger and more cohesive Europe.

"The migrants living in the EU are not part of a 'crisis', but an integral part of our society. We need a new narrative that stresses the benefits that migrants, their children and their children’s children bring to our societies,” says FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty. "Integration is key to our security and to our democracy."

There are some 20 million non-EU citizens living in the EU. Many have settled and started families. However, despite efforts from 2004 to follow common principles to guide and improve integration across the EU, Member States have widely different approaches to guide and improve integration and inclusion across the EU."

See the report: Together in the EU: Promoting the participation of migrants and their descendants (pdf)

Libya asks EU for ships and radars to stop migrants: sources (Reuters, link):

"Libya has asked the European Union to provide it with ships and radars to help its forces stop the smuggling of migrants across the Mediterranean, sources in Brussels said.

They said EU foreign ministers would review the "shopping list" at a meeting of foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, but would not be able to meet all the requests.

The bloc is supporting the government of Prime Minister Fayez Seraj in the hope it can gain control over the whole country after years of chaos and fighting. In exchange, it wants his help on preventing African refugees and migrants from embarking from the coast of Libya for Europe."

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

UK: Self-harm, depression and child detention uncovered in detention centre inspection

"The number of people self-harming in one of the UK’s immigration detention centres has increased three-fold in four years, an inspection report has revealed, prompting NGOs to highlight an “urgent” need for detention reform."

EU: From Turkey to Libya: The EU Migration Partnership from Bad to Worse (Eurojust.it, link):

"This contribution will briefly analyse the MPF [Migration Partnership Framework] focusing on the EU cooperation with Turkey and Libya. In so doing, it will also discuss the Malta Declaration and the interrelated Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Italy and Libya (February 2017) aimed to stem migratory flows by thwarting departures from North Africa. Whilst in 2016 the number of refugees crossing the sea to reach Europe plunged to 364,000 (one million in 2015), the number of those who died in the Mediterranean (7,495 persons) rose sharply. A significant drop in arrivals to Greece outweighed record migration to Italy, as a consequence of the EU-Turkey deal (signed in March 2016) and tighter border controls in the Western Balkans.

UK: Charges brought against 17 Stansted deportation flight activists

"A total of 17 people have been charged following a protest at Stansted Airport that prevented a deportation flight taking off.

The nine women and eight men were each charged with obstructing or disrupting a person engaged in lawful activity and organising or taking part in a demonstration likely to interfere or obstruct the major Essex airport."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (28-29.3.17)
Visegrad Four slam ‘blackmail’ by Brussels on migrants (euractiv, link):

"Leaders from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland (the Visegrád Four) rejected yesterday (28 March) what they called Brussels’ use of “blackmail and diktat” over planned resettlements of migrants across the EU.

Long opposed to sharing the burden of hosting mainly Syrian refugees, the four eastern EU states ruled out any links between accepting them and future disbursements of EU funds."

Austria says wants exemption from EU migrant relocation system (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Austria will seek an exemption from having to accept more asylum-seekers under an EU relocation system, it said on Tuesday, arguing that it has already taken in its fair share during Europe's migration crisis.

The move is a new blow to the system that would cover only a fraction of migrant arrivals to the European Union and that has barely been implemented because of opposition led by Eastern European countries including Poland and Hungary."

And see: Austria will double the amount it pays refugees who volunteer to leave (The Local.at, link)

Are You Syrious (29.3.17, link)

FEATURE: Europe’s silent plan for sending people off to danger unravels with mass deportations

"20 Afghan nationals have been gathered in one of Sweden’s 5 detention centers in Kållered, outside Gothenburg, for tonights’ deportation. The detention center had been shut down for visitors since the night before but protesters had gathered outside, lighting candles and holding signs. Reportedly, the protesters were outnumbered by the police even though hundreds of both local people and those who had traveled from different parts of the country have gathered during the day."

SEA

"At least 811 lives were lost since the beginning of the year in the sea, on the dangerous way to Europe, Comisión Española de Ayuda al Refugiado reports."

Hungarian detention centres ready to imprison hundreds

"A statement by the interior ministry said the country’s prison service installed 324 shipping containers at two camps, all for the purpose of detention of everyone except the unaccompanied minors under the age of 14. As announced, all asylum-seekers entering Hungary as well as those already in the country will be confined in camps while their applications are processed. That includes the several hundred people who have so far been lodged in refugee camps inside the country. That means that they face relocation to the border detention camps."

Katainen: For cohesion as well as migration, solidarity is not a one-way street (euractiv, link):

"Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen reminded the Visegrád countries today (28 March) that the solidarity they expect from the EU’s cohesion policy also applies to the refugee crisis."

UPDATED: EU: Justice and Home Affairs Council, 27-28 March 2017 Brussels:
Press release: Final 27-28-3-17 (pdf) Agenda "B" Points (for discussion) Agenda "A" Points (Non-legislaitve, adopted without discussion

EU should stop delivering visas to African officials over migrants: Germany (New Europe, link):

"The European Union should consider restricting visas for senior officials from African and other states which refuse to take back illegal immigrants from Europe, Germany’s interior minister said.

Thomas de Maiziere said in Brussels the EU needed to use all the levers at its disposal to ensure countries cooperated with Europe’s efforts to deport those arriving who were not entitled to asylum.

Last Thursday, Thomas de Maiziere appeared in front of the German parliament to argue for a new draft law that would impose stricter rules on asylum seekers. De Maiziere said that the German public would only support Germany’s generous asylum policies if the government enforced deportation regulations and protected German society against potential threats from migrants."

Hungary ‘ready to detain all migrants’ (euractiv, link):

"Hungary said yesterday (27 March) it was ready to begin detaining asylum-seekers in camps on its southern border with Serbia after passing a law this month that has drawn criticism from rights groups and the UN.

Hungary’s parliament approved on 7 March the systematic detention of all asylum-seekers in camps on the border composed of converted shipping containers."

The Trauma of Facing Deportation (NYT, link): "In Sweden, hundreds of refugee children have fallen unconscious after being informed that their families will be expelled from the country."

EU Commission Should Call Out Hungary’s Asylum Abuses (HRW, link): "Top EU Official Should Use Visit to Press Budapest to Comply with International Law."

EU worried migrants will shop around for best return deal (Politico, link): "The amount of financial incentive offered by EU countries varies considerably."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (25-27.3.17)
Relocation of refugees in EU has failed so Council turns to draconian returns policy - including the targeting of children for detention

The Council Presidency is working on a plan to "significantly improve the return system within the EU" and "improve cooperation on readmission".

See: EU: Council of the European Union: Return Policy: enhancing effectiveness a) Commission Recommendation on making returns more effective when implementing the Directive 2008/115/EC b) Commission Communication on a more effective return policy in the European Union - A renewed Action Plan = Policy debate (LIMITE doc no: 7112-17.pdf)

A policy poposed proposed on 1 June 2015 by Commissioner for Home Affairs, Dimitris Avramopoulos in a Letter to EU Home Affairs Ministers which presents a dehumanised portrayal of refugees and shows how to by-pass three detention related provisions of the Returns Directive.

Spain: Numbers of migrants and refugees arriving in Spain by boat on the increase

According to the information received by the delegation of Associación Pro Derechos Humanos Andalucía in Cádiz, it was confirmed on the morning of 21 March 2017 that two dinghies carrying more than 50 people arrived on the coast of the Bay of Cádiz. They arrived without the need for any intervention by the authorities and, according to the Red Cross, it is believed that there have been no injuries or people lost at sea.....

Mouzalas warns Greece can’t cope with more migrants (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas raised the alarm this weekend that Greece has reached saturation point in terms of refugee numbers.

In an interview with Germany’s Spiegel magazine, Mouzalas said it would be a mistake on the part of the country’s European partners to burden Greece further by implementing the Dublin agreement."

Greece; Ministry refugee statistics (27.3.17, pdf): 75 refugees arrived by 10.00. 14,163 on the Islands and 62,166 in Greece.

Refugee crisis in the Mediterranean: 'The smugglers' calculations are obvious' (DW, link):

"Civilian sea rescue missions like the German organization "Jugend Rettet" are trying to prevent deaths in the Mediterranean, but it's a mammoth task, as huge numbers are still risking their lives to make the crossing."

EU: Council of the European Union: Qualifications Regulation: Latest draft position: Regulation on standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, for a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection (pdf): 163 Footnotes with Member States' positions.

"This document contains compromise proposals suggested by the Presidency in relation to all articles, except for the following items placed between square brackets and which will be discussed as a later stage...

Suggested modifications are indicated as follows: - new text compared to the Commission proposal is in bold - new text compared to the previous version of this document is in bold underlined - deleted text is in strikethrough."

Are You Syrious (25.3.17, link)

One-third of children in Afghanistan unable to attend school

"Save the Children reported that a third of the children of Afghanistan are unable to attend school. 3.7 million children are thus put at risk for numerous problems, from child marriage to recruitment by armed groups. There are a number of factors responsible for this problem, chief among them is ongoing war in many parts of the country and the widespread poverty that forces young children to work just to feed the family. Save the Children also estimates that 400,000 children will be forced to drop out of school this year alone.

The problems faced by Afghanistan are compounded by Pakistan’s forcible deportation of the Afghan refugees who have lived in the country since the Soviet Union’s war in the country, circa 1980–88. 600,000 Afghans were expelled in 2016, and it is expected that an additional one million will join them in 2017."

Deportation to Afghanistan to take place on March 29

"The flight is supposed to take place at 1:30 in the morning, with an unknown quantity of people leaving from Vienna to return to their war-torn homeland. Please warn anybody who you think might be affected!"

Can Kenya ensure national security while still admitting refugees? (The Star, link):

"Kenya is no stranger to this struggle. Situated in a conflict-prone zone it’s hosted hundreds of thousands of refugees from a range of countries including Somalia, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia.

This benevolence has become a particular challenge with the rise of terrorist attacks. The most shocking were the Westgate Mall attack in 2013 and the Garissa university attack in 2015. They were carried out by Al-Shabaab, a terrorist group based in Somalia.

The government used the attacks to justify the closure of the Dadaab refugee camp and to revoke the prima facie status of Somali refugees."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (24.3.17)
European Commission: Report on the implementation of Regulation (EU) 2016/369 on the provision of emergency support within the Union (COM 131-17, pdf):

European Commission Factsheet published on 13 January, 2015 alerted the EU in “Questions and Answers: Smuggling of Migrants in Europe" and the EU response that: In 2014, more than 276,000 migrants irregularly entered the EU, which represents an increase of 155% compared to 2013. Syrians together with Eritreans were the largest group apprehended at EU external borders trying to enter the EU in an irregular manner.”

This report notes that: "In 2015 and 2016, close to 1.1 million persons, who may be in need of international protection, and irregular migrants (hereafter referred to as 'refugees and migrants') made their way to the European Union (EU) along the Eastern Mediterranean route."

So why did it take until 2 March 2016 for the Commission to adopt a proposal on the provision of emergency support within the Union. (the Regulation was adopted by the Council on 15 March 2016)? Why was the "experience of the EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department" not immediately activated at the beginning of 2015?

It should also be noted that:

"Greece was the only Member State that met the two 'eligibility' conditions set out in the Regulation:

the exceptional scale and impact of the disaster give rise to severe wide-ranging humanitarian consequences in one or more Member States; and no other instrument available to Member States and to the Union is sufficient.

As a result, all the actions funded under this Regulation to date were exclusively aimed at tackling the humanitarian situation in Greece."

Are You Syrious (23.3.17, link)


Another Mediterranean tragedy

"Up to 250 men, women and children coming from Africa are feared dead on the Mediterranean tonight. It is reported the people have probably drowned after a rescue boat found two partially submerged rubber dinghies off Libya, a spokeswoman for the NGO which operates the vessel said today. Laura Lanuza of Spanish charity Pro-Activa Open Arms said its boat had recovered five floating corpses close to the dinghies, about 15 miles off the Libyan coast. The overall number is yet to be determined, but it is already certain it will yet again be a devastating one."

Lesvos

"One boat carrying 18 people, including 4 children, came in on North East coast of Lesvos at 1AM today in a very difficult area. Everyone is okay, a local volunteer reported.

There were 77 new registrations on Chios, 41 on Samos, making a total of 112. The number of arrivals remains high, 758 people came since last Friday alone, most frequently on Chios."

SERBIA

"The spokesperson of the Serbian Defence Ministry said that in the last few days, there has been an increase in the migrant pressure from Bulgaria and Macedonia towards Serbia, reports Novinite."

DENMARK: Government proposes law change in case of “emergency situation”

"Denmark’s government came out with a new law change proposal which would allow the country to close the borders for refugees, including unaccompanied children, due to exceptional circumstances, reports The Local. This would apply in case of a “crisis situation”, a phrase often used without further clarification, in which case the Dublin Regulation would not apply.

" Council of Europe calls on Hungary to reconsider new law that risks exposing migrant children to sexual exploitation (Press release, link):

"In a letter to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, published today,Claude Janizzi, the Chairperson of the Council of Europe Lanzarote Committee expressed hisconcern that the adopted law – “On the amendment of certain acts related to increasing thestrictness of procedures carried out in the areas of border management” – will negatively impacton the implementation of the Lanzarote Convention, to which Hungary is party, in mainly twoways:·

Unaccompanied migrant children between 14 and 18 will be considered adults during theemergency crisis and will not benefit from child protection measures, including theappointment of a guardian;·

These children will be placed in transit zones with a greater risk of becoming victims ofsexual abuse or exploitation."

See: Letter (pdf)

A huge number of migrants leave Bulgaria (Border Monitoring Bulgaria, link):

"Recently, the State Agency for Refugee (SAR) and the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior (MoI) stated in a report that already thousands of people had left Bulgaria, this year. In January 2017, more than 2210 migrants had already left the country and in February 903 people were reported to be ‚disappeared‘. In March more than 400 people left Bulgaria."

The Asylum System in Spain: Guaranteed Right to Protection? (link)

"Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators filled central Barcelona on February 18th to demand that European governments fulfil their obligations. They demanded compliance with the relocation quotas from Greece and Italy. But they called for more, insisting that the right to asylum must be guaranteed with safe means of entry, that asylum procedures should be fair and consistent with international law and that reception conditions should be dignified. Thus far, the Spanish government has relocated just 900 of the nearly 16,000 asylum seekers agreed in September 2015. That is a long way from where it should be. We know little about the Spanish asylum system, what awaits those who attempt to arrive by themselves and those who are already here. Is the right to international protection guaranteed?"

Erdogan says Turkey will review EU ties ‘from A to Z’ (euractiv, link);

"Turkey will review all political and administrative ties with the European Union after an April referendum, including a deal to curb illegal migration, but will maintain economic relations with the bloc, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday (23 March)."

EU roadmap for Libya to stem flow of sea migrants - Libyan prime minister asked for rescue and emergency equipment to curb illegal migration across its border into Europe (aljazeera.com, link):

"Ongoing consultations between the UN-backed government in Tripoli, representatives of the interior ministers of Italy and other eight European countries aim at bolstering an agreement signed in February, when Libya agreed to tackle the smuggling of migrants into Europe.

EU Migration Commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, and interior ministers from Algeria and Tunisia also attended the meeting....

In the meantime, Rome has been pursuing a solution to the political stalemate in Libya, in the hope that the UN-backed Libyan Political Agreement (LPA), signed in 2015, would finally take off and help the Tripoli government establish control over its borders and as a result over migrants routes across its territory.

But the deadlock between Tripoli and the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) is far from over. Under the influence of renegade General Khalifa Haftar, the HoR is refusing to acknowledge the UN-sponsored Government of National Accord(GNA) formed by Serraj, who also heads the Presidential Council."

More than 200 migrants feared drowned in Mediterranean (BBC News, link):

"More than 200 migrants are feared dead after five bodies were discovered off the Libyan coast, a Spanish aid organisation says.

Proactiva said the bodies were found floating near two capsized boats which could each hold more than 100 people.

The group's Laura Lanuza said the five they pulled from the Mediterranean were young men who appeared to have drowned."

Belgium criticises aid groups for saving lives (News That Moves, link):

"From Reuters: Belgium’s migration minister, Theo Francken, has said aid organisations are causing more deaths by saving migrants that try to cross the Mediterranean Sea from north Africa to Italy.Theo Francken went on Twitter to criticize Doctors Without Borders (MSF) for operating ships near the Libyan coast that he says only encourage smugglers...."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (23.3.17)
EU: Commission: Latest figures on: Relocations from Greece and Italy (22.3.17, pdf) and Hotspots (20.3.17, pdf)

Enough is enough: deaths on the western Balkans route (IRR News, link):

"A public push is needed to stop refugee and migrant deaths on the western Balkans route. IRR News continues its investigation into violations and deaths at EU borders, focusing on seven deaths in the Serbian, Hungarian and Bulgarian border zones."

EU:Justice and Home Affairs Council 27-28 March, 2017: Background Note (pdf) Substantial items on refugees, migration and asylum.

Asylum seekers protest against the problematic asylum procedures in Finland

"Iraqi and Afghan asylum seekers in Finland have been protesting against the unequal asylum processes and faulty asylum decisions for one month in central Helsinki, the capital of Finland. The asylum processes and decisions have proved to be highly problematic when it comes to using interpreters, accepting evidence, evaluating personal threat and the safety of the country of origin among other things. The Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) refuses to publicly admit these problems, although in a private meeting with the demonstrators Migri has admitted making several mistakes in the cases of asylum seekers who arrived in Finland in 2015 and after. Meanwhile, Finland continues to forcibly deport people to unsafe circumstances."

Court ruling blocks Libya-Italy MoU on stemming illegal immigration (Libya Observer, link):

"Tripoli Appeals Court's administrative division ruled Wednesday to block the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Libya and Italy to fight the growing influx of illegal immigrants and the issue of human trafficking as well as to help Libya secure its southern borders.

"The MoU will be blocked urgently until the lawsuit is tackled in full." The court ruling stated.

Ending the migrant deal with Turkey may save the EU (euobserver, link):

" this particular deal has come at an incredibly huge political price for the EU and its member states, notably Germany.

From the agreement's inception, Turkey has been trying to use it as a card to exert political pressure against the EU, and has more than once threatened to call it off if it did not get visa-free travel for Turkish citizens in return. ..."

Ill-Treatment Of Migrants In Greek Law Enforcement – Are the Strasbourg Court Judgments the Tip of the Iceberg? (EU Migration Law, link):

Nikolaos Sitaropoulos, Head of Division and Deputy to the Director, Office of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.All views expressed herein are strictly personal.

"A number of reports by international human rights organisations, like CPT and Amnesty International, have recorded numerous cases of ill-treatment, including torture, suffered by migrants while under the control of Greek law enforcement officials. Despite the frequent reporting of such incidents there have not been any major cases brought before the European Court of Human Rights (‘Strasbourg Court’ or ‘the Court’) until recently."

EU: Humanitarian Visas, still an open question (balcanicaucaso.org, link):

"The recent verdict of the European Court of Justice comes as a blow to those who want to see safe and legal access to the EU for refugees. But the reform of the Code on Visas offers another chance for change, and the European Parliament is keen on not letting it get away."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (22.3.17)
HUNGARY-SERBIA: Police violence against migrants and refugees at Hungarian-Serbian border

A video by the Serbian volunteer group Fresh Response has collected the testimonies of numerous people who have suffered violence and mistreatment at the hands of Hungarian police whilst trying to cross into the country from Serbia. The film includes numerous accounts of beatings with batons, the use of dogs and pepper spray, and the confiscation of shoes and clothes in freezing conditions. The group argues that many of the testimonies describe "acts that can be only seen as torture," and that "the enormous scale and clear pattern of violence leave no doubt: these are not just rare and isolated acts of brutality."

EU: Statistics on asylum application in 2016 published: 1.2 million first-time asylum seekers registered

"In 2016, 1 204 300 first time asylum seekers applied for international protection in the Member States of the European Union (EU), a number slightly down compared with 2015 (when 1 257 000 first time applicants were registered) but almost double that of 2014 (562 700)

Syrians (334 800 first time applicants), Afghans (183 000) and Iraqis (127 000) remained the main citizenship of people seeking international protection in the EU Member States in 2016, accounting for slightly more than half of all first time applicants."

See: Asylum in the EU Member States - 1.2 million first time asylum seekers registered in 2016 (press release, pdf)

And: Asylum statistics - statistics explained (pdf): "This article describes recent developments in relation to numbers of asylum applicants and decisions on asylum applications in the European Union (EU) ."

EU: Child migrants endure 'abysmal conditions' (EUobserver, link):

"Children who trekked alone to reach Europe often find themselves living in "abysmal conditions" upon arrival and are being denied free legal aid.

The findings are part of a thematic report, released on Wednesday (22 March) by Strasbourg-based human rights overseer the Council of Europe.

Spearheaded by Tomas Bocek, the report says children left to fend for themselves are sometimes found begging in Turkey and, in some cases, arrested and detained."

See the report: Thematic Report on migrant and refugee children: Prepared by the Special Representative of the Secretary General on migration and refugees (pdf)

FRANCE: At the crossroads: homeless and undocumented people in Paris since the Calais evictions (OpenDemocracy, link):

"Porte de la Chapelle is a gathering place for the ‘new’ migrants and refugees of Paris – the ones people mean when referring to the ‘crisis’ – although it’s not the only one. Across the city there is an untold number of people in transit. Pushed back from the UK border by the Calais evictions last October, many hope to move on to Germany or Sweden, or simply seek to somehow negotiate the obstacles of the over-stretched French asylum system and the Dublin Agreement. If your fingerprints have been taken in another European country, you have little chance of remaining ‘officially’ in France.

Some have family or help or a place to stay. Some have been housed by the state or a charity, or after too much hardship and exposure have decided to take their chances in the wildly varying ‘Centres d’Accueil’ outside of the capital, the reception centres to which many of the Calais people were taken. But far too many are sleeping rough in the grey Paris winter, living from day to day."

GREECE: You can't evict a movement: a story of squatting and migration in Athens (OpenDemocracy, link):

"An inside look at one of the most remarkable stories to come out of Greece's ongoing economic and refugee crisis - the intersection of the anarchist and migrant solidarity movements in Athens."

And see: Greece's Anarchists Are Taking Better Care of Refugees Than the Government (VICE, link)

Balkan migration route is ‘not closed’ (EurActiv, link):

"Roadblocks set up across the Balkans have caused a backlog in Greece and other transit countries. In its recently released annual report, EU border agency Frontex said that although an “effective closure of the Balkan route” had been achieved in spring 2016, it did not stop migration completely. In 2016, 382,000 illegal migrants arrived in Europe from Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

In its Risk Analysis for 2017, Frontex noted that the route has shifted west and more sea crossings are being made. The report warned of “growing migratory pressure from Africa, mainly on the route from Libya to Italy”. As a result, Italy recorded its highest number of arrivals last year, with numbers topping 182,000.

The number of vulnerable people making the journey, including women and children, has also increased. Legal reunification of refugee families with those that have already made it north reduced in Germany in 2016.

Refugee protection organisations and migration researchers feel vindicated by the numbers and figures related to the alleged closure of the Balkan route. “Migration cannot be stopped so long as the reasons that cause it are still there and which force people to leave their homelands: including wars, poverty, overexploitation of the environment,” Sabine Hess told Der Tagesspiegel."

EU official: we can make members accept refugees (Associated Press, link):

"The European Union's commissioner for migration says there are ways to make all EU members states comply with the program of relocation of migrants among them.

Dimitris Avramopoulos made the statement Tuesday in Warsaw, where he is visiting the growing European border guard agency, Frontex.

...Without naming Poland, Avramopoulos said the EU has the "tools, the means and the power" to convince all members to comply and will make an assessment of response by the end of September. He mentioned no sanctions."

EU: European Parliament briefing: on use of the Schengen Information System for return purposes

"The Schengen Information System (SIS) is a large-scale information database that supports external border control and law enforcement cooperation in the Schengen states. It enables competent authorities, such as police and border guards, to enter and consult alerts on certain categories of wanted or missing persons and lost or stolen property. In December 2016, the European Commission put forward a legislative package containing several proposals aimed at responding more effectively to new migration and security challenges. One of these proposals is focused on extending the use of the SIS for returning illegally staying third-country nationals. In particular, this proposal introduces an obligation for Member States to enter all return decisions in the SIS. The main aims of the proposal are to enhance the enforcement of the EU return policy and to reduce the incentives to irregular migration to the EU. The other parts of the package concern making more effective use of SIS in border checks and allowing access for law enforcement purposes."

See: Use of the Schengen Information System for the return of illegally staying third-country nationals (pdf)

HUNGARY: US human rights report highlights mistreatment of migrants and refugees

A report by the US State Department raises a number of serious issues with regar to the situation of human rights in Hungary, noting in particular "the government’s handling of migrants and asylum seekers seeking to transit the country, which was marked by several reports of physical abuse and xenophobic rhetoric. International organizations and human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) continued to voice criticism of the systematic erosion of the rule of law; potential violations of international humanitarian law; weakening of checks and balances, democratic institutions, and transparency; and intimidation of independent societal voices since 2010."

See: US Department of State: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016: Hungary (pdf)

And an overview: US State Department Report Assesses the State of Human Rights in Hungary in 2016 (Hungary Today, link)

EU: Asylum Information Database: new reports on Germany, Ireland and Sweden

New reports have been published by the Asylum Information Database on the legal situation in Germany, Ireland and Sweden, three countries that have all recently made significant changes to their asylum systems.

UN: Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Migration

"The present report, which was prepared by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Migration, makes recommendations for the better management of migration through international cooperation, and proposes ways of strengthening the engagement of the United Nations on migration, as noted by the General Assembly in its resolutions 70/302 and 71/1."

Dealbreaker: EU migration policy causes more harm and chaos one year after EU-Turkey deal (OpenDemocracy, link):

"Agreed on 18 March 2016, the EU-Turkey deal drew a line in the sand, after which all migrants and refugees who crossed from Turkey to the Greek islands, and who did not apply for asylum in Greece or whose claim was refused, would be returned to Turkey.

The EU-Turkey deal has not lived up to its promise of ending irregular migration and has, in the meantime, caused enormous suffering. People are languishing in horrible conditions across the EU, record numbers of people still die at sea, or are trapped in Turkey, Libya and beyond. Over 60,000 people have been left in limbo in Greece, and a further 8,000 stranded in Serbia. Relocation numbers remain simply pitiful, with less than 10,000 relocations from Greece as of March 2017. Levels of trauma, depression and suicide among migrants and refugees have increased.

In a recent case brought before the European Court of Justice, the EU even argued that it cannot be held responsible for any consequences of the deal because it was “just a press release”. So essentially, a document of “no legal value” is causing unjustifiable human cost, drastically changing policy and promising billions of euros to Turkey for keeping its end of the deal."

Book: The Role of the State in Migration Control: The Legitimacy Gap and Moves towards a Regional Model (Brill, link):

"This research questions the seemingly ossified premise that states have an absolute discretion to control international migration. Applying Max Weber’s theories of legitimacy, it determines that while states have certain traditionally legitimate functions, migration control, as distinct from the determination of citizenship, is not one such function. Measures of migration control must thus be justified on a rational-legal basis, that is, on a minimal evidential basis.

Acknowledging the many obstacles states face in carrying out this legitimising exercise, it is suggested that a supranational approach at the regional level is the most sustainable long-term model, with an ultimate aim of achieving inter-regional cooperation on migration management on the basis of equality between regions."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (21.3.17)
EU- AFRICA-LIBYA: Council of the European Union: EU targets Libyan refugees

Migration policy: implementation: - External aspects: contribution of Ministers of Interior = Discussion paper (LIMITE doc no: 7110-17, pdf): Following the 3 February 2017 Malta Declaration (pdf) the Council Presidency reports that "its implementation has now taken off." The aim is to cut or halt refugees arriving in the EU via Libya and the same for the neighbouring states to Libya. This includes:

"Supporting IOM in significantly stepping up assisted voluntary return activities...

"IOM would need to recruit more staff, post international staff in Tripoli (IOM office planned to be open by the end of March 2017) and more importantly, assist the country of origin's consuls in neighbouring countries to increase their capacity to issue travel documents. This is currently considered the main bottleneck in carrying out assisted voluntary returns from Libya." [emphasis added]

And: "Helping to reduce the pressure on Libya's land borders, keeping track of alternative routes and possible diversion of smugglers' activities as well as deepening dialogue and cooperation on migration with all countries neighbouring Libya."

Also from the Valletta Plan:

"enhancing adequate reception capacities and conditions in Libya and neighbouring countries for migrants;
- improving the socio-economic situation and resilience of host communities in Libya and neighbouring countries;
- enhancing border management capacity on Libya's land borders.."
[emphasis added]

"Reception capacities" equals holding centres.

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

European, North Africa ministers seek to curb Libya migrant flows (euractiv, link):

"Interior ministers mainly from the central Mediterranean region met in Rome yesterday (20 March) to ramp up efforts to curb migration from Libya amid a sharp rise in the number of people trying to cross to Europe.

One year after a controversial deal with Turkey to stop migrants setting out across the Aegean Sea for Greece, the European Union is seeking to reach a similar accord with conflict-hit Libya, despite fierce opposition from human rights campaigners."

Interior ministers from Algeria, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Libya, Malta, Slovenia, Switzerland and Tunisia took part in the meeting, along with European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos.

The group released a declaration of intent which limited itself to promising increased coordination and information-sharing in a bid to tackle the root causes of migration, as well as combat smuggling and strengthen borders."

See : Declaration of Intent (Italian, pdf) and see: Remarks by Commissioner Avramopoulos following the Ministerial Conference on the Central Mediterranean Migration Route in Rome (pdf)

Greek Ministry: Refugee statistics: 21.3.17 (pdf) Also states that in 2017: Voluntary returns: 1,308 and Departures to Turkey: 110.

Are You Syrious (20.3.17, link)

Feature: New deal, new humanitarian nightmare?

"This morning, around 9.30, 116 people, including 15 women and a 5 year old child, landed in Molo Favarolo, Lampedusa. By the end of the day, 560 people arrived. They are from Cameroon, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Nigeria, Senegal, Guinea Bissau.

Late this evening, 946 people were saved by Aquarius and on their way to Catania, Sicily.

Yesterday, March 19, 3,000 people were rescued. This increase is, according to some sources, due to the good weather. All of the new arrivals will try to continue their journey, once they rest. However, in Italy, the situation for migrants and refugees who are coming is not improving. There is hardly any accommodation for people, not enough volunteers, and the state is not in the capacity to take care of all the people who are arriving almost daily....."

Bulgaria

"According to data gathered by the Bulgaria Border Monitoring, currently, there are three detention centers in this country: one in Busmantsi, one Lyubimets and one in Elhovo.

In February 2017, the current number of people who were living in “closed-type“ centers was 984. Also, there are six refugee centers, three in Sofia and three in the rest of the country."

Hungary

The government announced they will appeal the first-instance ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) finding the state for wrongly detaining and deporting two Bangladeshi asylum-seekers in 2015.

The Court ruled last week that by taking this measure, Hungary had violated the European Convention on Human Rights. The court ordered that Hungary has to pay to the petitioners 18,705 euros each in compensation and legal fees. This ruling could pave the way for every asylum seeker in Hungary to seek recourse in Strasbourg.

According to the official numbers, a total of 7,204 people had tried to enter Hungary so far this year. Out of this number, 4,472 were arrested and 2,740 pushed back. At the same time, 1,134 asylum applications were submitted, while 54 applicants have been granted international protection, 13 refugee status, 36 have been given subsidiary protection and 5 have been granted ‘tolerated stay’ status."

Europe Migrant Crisis: German Officials To Use Speech Analysis Software To Screen Refugee (IBT, link):

"German officials plan to screen refugees using an automated software that analyzes dialects, according to German paper Die Welt via Deutsche Welle.

The speech analysis system would help officials in reviewing an applicant's sources of origin. Technology in the software is the same used by financial firms, such as banks and insurance companies, to verify people over the phone.

"The idea is to record a separate speech sample from asylum seekers and to carry out an automatic dialect analysis," Julian Detzel, from the BAMF told Die Welt ."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (18-20.3.17)
Greece: Sharp increase in migrants reaching Aegean islands from Turkey (ekathimerini.com, link):

"New arrivals to the eastern Aegean islands of Lesvos, Chios and Samos have raised the number of migrants landing in Greece from neighboring Turkey since last Thursday to 566, government figures showed on Monday.

The figure represents a significant increase compared to arrivals in the rest of March and for the whole of February.

In the past four days, 195 migrants landed on Lesvos, 341 on Chios and 30 on Samos."

UK: House of Commos: EU External Affairs Sub-Committee: Committee follows up on Operation Sophia and Libya (link):

"The EU External Affairs Sub-Committee holds a double evidence session with Joseph Walker-Cousins from the Institute for Statecraft and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as a follow-up to its previous inquiry on Operation Sophia."

In Rome, EU and North African ministers hold 'migration summit' (DW, link)

"EU and North African ministers are to meet in Rome to discuss strategies for curbing the number of migrants coming to Europe. Thousands of people have died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean in dangerous boats.

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni is to meet with interior ministers from a number of EU countries and from three Northern African states on Monday in Rome.

The interior ministers of Libya, Tunisia and Algeria are to meet with their German, Italian, French, Austrian, Maltese, Slowenian and Swiss counterparts. The EU commissioner for migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, is also attending.

Italy's Interior Minister Marco Minniti wants to form a permanent "contact group" between European and North African countries that addresses migration issues. Following the closure of the so-called Balkan route and an EU deal with Turkey, more migrants have attempted the hazardous route from North Africa across the Mediterranean towards Italy."

Greek Ministry: Refugee statistics 20.3.17 (pdf) Records 56 people arriving in Lesvos and 24 in Chios. Total of 14,762 on the Islands and 62,434 in Greece.

Bulgaria says ready to reinforce border with Turkey (New Europe, link):

"Bulgarian officials say they are prepared to increase patrols and complete a razor-wire fence along its border with Turkey to prevent any new flood of migrants.

“We are ready to protect the country’s border in the way provided for in our legislation,” Defense Minister Stefan Yanev told AFP news agency during a visit Malko Tarnovo, a town on Bulgaria’s southeastern border with Turkey.

He added, however, that the border for now is calm and that illegal border crossing attempts have declined over the past two months."

Greece: Thousands of asylum claims pending despite influx drop (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Thousands of asylum applications remain pending even though the influx of undocumented migrants into Greece from neighboring Turkey has plummeted over the past year.

A total of 2,627 migrants landed on the islands of the eastern Aegean from Turkey between January 1 and March 5 this year, according to government data. In the same period last year, that number was 121,426."

UNHCR: (17.3.17): 2017: 15,556 arrivals in Italy, 2,945 in Greece, 1,000 in Spain. 537 dead/missing.

Are You Syrious (18,3,17, link)

FEATURE: Enough is enough!

"Tens of thousands of people all around Europe went out on the streets today to repeat that EU - Turkey deal is not what they want.

The deal was signed on March 18 and became operation two days after, but since the very beginning, it is surrounded by criticisms coming from human rights groups, activists and even academics. It did not help. Even more, EU leaders are planing to replicate this type of deal with other countries, like Libya, Sudan and Niger."

Greece: New arrivals

"More people arrived today to Greek islands, and were immediately taken to detention, in some cases with no possibility to get dry clothes from volunteers. Today, 102 new arrivals were registered on Chios, from two boats. Over the last 48 hours, more than 280 people arrived to the island. CEST group at Chios need help to keep up helping to new arrivals and those on the islands, where many people are still living in tents."

Turkey Interior Min: Let’s send 15,000 migrants a month to Europe to “blow its mind’ (Keep Talking Greece, link):

"Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has said Turkey could send 15,000 refugees and migrants to Europe to shock the Europeans. The threat follows the recent diplomatic crisis between Ankara and Germany and the Netherlands that stemmed from the latter’s decision to bar Turkish ministers from staging rallies there.

“We have a readmission deal. I’m telling you Europe, do you have that courage? If you want, we’ll send the 15,000 refugees to you that we don’t send each month and blow your mind. You have to keep in mind that you can’t design a game in this region in spite of Turkey,” Soylu said at an event late on March 16, referring to a readmission deal between the European Union and Turkey to return migrants to Turkey who have illegally crossed the Aegean Sea to Greece."

Romania and Italy unite to halt abuse of women migrants (Observer, link): "Governments act after the Observer exposed exploitation of workers in Sicily."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (17.3.17)
Greek verdict hangs over EU-Turkey migrant deal (euobserver, link):

"Once again, the EU's migrant deal with Turkey hangs in the balance, but this time from a high court in Athens.

The legal stakes in Greece underpin a sharp rise in antagonistic rhetoric between Ankara and EU capitals. Caught in the middle are the thousands of migrants stuck in misery on the Greek islands.

Agreed on 18 March one year ago, the deal risks unravelling if the Greek court's conservative judges decide Turkey is not a safe third country. Lawyers representing two Syrian asylum seekers have until Friday (17 March) to send them written evidence. Both Syrians had applied for asylum in Greece. Both applications failed. Neither want to go back to Turkey. "

Eric Kempson reporting from north Lesvos (17.3.17, FB link):

"most people don't understand that many boats arrive on the islands nearly every night, I only report the boats coming into Lesvos, Last night so far 172 people came in on the islands, this was one post we received today, Some disturbing news from the people from the first boat this morning.

Turkish try to flip the boat, everyone was soaked. They take seven men from the boat back to turkey. Somehow the boat manage to brake lose, and continued towards the frontex boat standing in Greek waters waiting. The Turkish coast Guard did perhaps not go after the boat because Frontex was present, but not sure. A boat filled with children, and this is how they try to handle it..."

Note: The official Greek Ministry reports do not record 172 refugees arriving: Statistics (pdf): 14,018 on the isalnds and 62,434 in the whole of Greece.

Majority of arrivals in Greece from Africa, Pakistan (News That Moves, link):

"New data from Greek Police and Coast Guard, as quoted by Greek daily Kathimerini, shows that the majority of migrants and refugees who have recently arrived on Greek islands by sea are no longer Syrian, Iraqi or Afghan nationals.

Kathimerini reported that the majority of migrants that have recently crossed from Turkey to Greece’s Aegean islands come from a variety of African countries, including Algeria, Congo, Morocco, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ethiopia, as well as from Pakistan and Bangladesh."

EU: Council of the European Union: Humanitarian Visas: Court case

Humanitarian visas - Reference for a preliminary ruling on the interpretation of Article 25(1)(a) of the Visa Code (Case C-638/16 PPU, X and X v. Belgium) (LIMITE doc no: 7271-17, pdf):

"On 7 March 2017, the Court of Justice (Grand Chamber) gave its judgment in Case C-638/16 PPU, Humanitarian visas. It concerns the interpretation of Article 25(1)(a) of Regulation 810/2009 (Visa Code) and of Articles 4 (on prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment) and Article 18 (on right to asylum) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and more particularly the question of whether Member States were obliged by the Charter to deliver visas of limited territorial validity under Article 25(1)(a) of the Visa Code to a family of Syrian nationals having requested such visas at the Belgian consulate in Lebanon with a view to apply for international protection in Belgium. As the preliminary ruling was about the interpretation of the Visa Code, and not about its validity, the Council did not intervene. This Case had raised a lot of concern among Member States, 14 of which intervened in support of Belgium......

One can draw from this judgment that should the EU decide to adopt harmonising legislation regarding the issuance of long-term visas or the examination of asylum or international protection applications submitted in the territory of third countries, the relevant authorities of the representations of Member States in these countries would fall within the scope of EU law and therefore within the scope of the Charter of Fundamental Rights"

Ireland pushes Trump on illegal Irish immigrants (New Europe, link):

"Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, during a visit to Washington to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, urged US President Donald Trump to help Irish people living in the US illegally, saying they just want to “make America great”.":

EU to find missing migrant children with fingerprinting (euobserver, link):

"EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos recently told the European Parliament that there is a need to "fully" use the existing instruments to report and record child disappearances, suggesting they were currently not.

He said missing children should be recorded in the Schengen Information System (SIS), which is the only EU database used for the purpose of recording missing persons. He also proposed that photographs and fingerprints should be attached to SIS entries...

Omid Mahmoudi, the founder of Ensamkommandes Forbund, an association for unaccompanied minors in Sweden, told EUobserver that increased fingerprinting could be counterproductive. "It's the same kind of argument as saying that closing the borders would prevent children from drowning. Children go missing because they are fighting to survive," he argued.

Mahmoudi, who came to Sweden as a lone minor, said he paid smugglers so they would bring him to safety without being stopped on the way. "Instead of asking why children disappear, we are creating further measures that scare them. Children are afraid of being fingerprinted, even six-year-olds are afraid of being deported if they are caught," he said.

"Besides, we already have fingerprints for most missing children, and nobody is looking for them," he said."

The long wait of young unaccompanied migrants in Italy (Open MIgration, link):

"Unaccompanied foreign minors in Italy: the underestimated numbers, the great problem of verifying age, reception centres that don’t work and the subsequent flight from those structures. Some data and considerations as we reflect on a complex phenomenon that needs more adequate responses."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (16.3.17)
EU: New measures going through on what is known is as the "Package" on the Common European Asylum System (CEAS):

1. Criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or a stateless person. Recast

2. Eurodac system for the comparison of fingerprints of applicants for international protection and for identifying illegally staying third-country nationals or stateless persons; requests for the comparison with Eurodac data. Recast

3. European Union Agency for Asylum

4. Common procedure for international protection in the Union

5. Qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection and content of the protection granted

6. Reception of applicants for international protection. Recast

7. Union resettlement framework

8. EU common list of safe countries of origin

And see: Reform of the Dublin system (pdf) and Safe countries of origin: Proposed common EU list (pdf). Note: As yet there is no new proposal on long-term "solidarity" concerning the relocation of refugees within the EU.

North Shore Lesvos Night Watch (link)

"We are badly in need of thermal imaging equipment for our volunteers to be able to spot boats at night.Kara is kindly organizing a fund raiser for us, please help us if you can. We can only continues to do this with your assistance, thank you.."

We do watch on the North Shore of Lesvos. As most boats make this crossing in the dark we need to be able to spot the refugee boats before they crash into the rocks and prevent any tradgedy. Please help us purchase these..."

Are You Syrious (15.3.17, link)

Feature: Will there be Dublin returns to Greece?

"On December 8 2016, the EC officially recommended that, starting on March 15, the European countries (EU, Norway & Switzerland) should be able to send asylum seekers who traveled through Greece back to Greece. Some governments (Germany, Austria and Belgium) have said that they plan to implement this and it’s very likely that other countries will follow. However, they did mention gradual returns, applying the decision primarily to the ones who arrive after this date and not including unaccompanied minors or others that are considered vulnerable at that point. In general, it is unclear how and if these recommended returns will be put into practice and how (not to mention - why)....."

Greece: Arrivals

"41 people were officialy registered on Samos this Wednesday morning."

Rome: “Not in my name”

"Other protests are also held across Italy. Protesting against possible legislation that would lead to multiplied deportation centres, that are in fact detention facilities, people also gathered in front of the seat of the Italian Chamber of Deputies in Rome, the Montecitorio."

HUNGARY: Asylum Information on Hungary - March 2017: Detention of all aslyum-seekers (pdf):

"Please consider the following changes carefully, when planning to enter Hungary: The asylum law in Hungary will change in March 2017. All asylum seekers entering Hungary legally through the Transit Zone will be detained in a container camp at the Hungarian border with Serbia. This includes families, unaccompanied minors above the age of 14, single women and men. Unaccompanied children under the age of 14 will be brought to an open facility in a different part of the country. Detention will
last for the whole duration of the asylum procedure. In practice, the asylum procedure in Hungary lasts 4 to 9 months. There will be no legal way to oppose detention and there will be no option for bail out (bail out = paying money to go out)
."

Turkey again threatens to cancel migration deal (News That Moves, link):

"From Reuters: Turkey is again threatening to cancel the EU-Turkey migration deal. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his government is reconsidering the six billion dollar agreement with the EU.

A year ago, on March 18, Turkey had agreed to stop migrants from crossing into Greece in exchange for financial aid and accelerated visa-free EU travel for Turkish citizens.

“We may cancel the readmission agreement. The EU has been wasting our time on the visa liberalisation issue,” Cavusoglu said, adding that, “We are not applying the readmission agreement at the moment, and we are evaluating the refugee deal.”"

From Syria to Bulgaria, part I: Escaping death (euractiv, link):

"Some years ago, an ambitious Kurd from a village in northern Syria won a scholarship to study abroad. He ended up in Havana, where he learned Spanish. Elias later returned to Syria, where he became a journalist at the state news agency, SANA. EURACTIV Romania reports."

and: From Syria to Bulgaria, part II: ‘Now, I am a teacher in Sofia’ (euractiv, link)

Thursday, March 16, 2017, 00:01 by Dimitris Avramopoulos and Carmelo Abela Solid EU migration, asylum policy (Times of Malta, link)

Frontex: Arrival of migrants in February: surge in Italy, drop in Greece (link)

Hungary: Court awards €20,000 to asylum seekers after human rights law breaches (link):

"Human rights judges say the detention of two Bangladeshi migrants in the border zone between Hungary and Serbia was unlawful.

The Strasbourg also ruled yesterday that the removal of the asylum seekers from Hungary to Serbia exposed them to the risk of inhuman and degrading reception conditions in Greece. "


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (15.3.17)

London Launch of report: Migrant detention in the European Union: a thriving business Outsourcing and privatization of migrant detention (pdf): 6pm Tuesday 28th March Praxis, Pott Street, London E2 0EF (round corner from Bethnal Green underground, buses 8, 106, 254, 388; easy access and toilet facilities for wheelchair users and pushchairs):

"In the UK, corporations like G4S, Serco, Mitie and Capita make millions locking up migrants in privately run detention centres. Many other less known companies also jostle for contracts in the detention industry, for example providing healthcare, cleaning or construction services. Britain is a pioneer in detention outsourcing, hurtling towards the model of the massive US private prison industry.

But detention outsourcing is also taking off across Europe. This meeting will present a new research report by Migreurop, the European and African migration network, which maps the rise of the privatised migration detention business across the European Union."

Organisers: Migreurop, Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, Brussels Office, Campaign to Close Campsfield, Corporate Watch, Statewatch.

See: Facebook Events (link)

Academics collaborate with artists to ask: who are we to fear refugees and migrants? (The Conservation,link):

"Who Are We? This is the question that London’s Tate is asking at its free six day cross-platform event spanning the visual arts, film, photography, design, architecture, the spoken and written word and live art. The aim of the programme is to foster collaboration and exchange between artists and researchers, with a view to exploring what is becoming of the UK and Europe. How can “another we” be created, one less susceptible to the fear and suspicion currently dominating the continent? "

Turkey must reassess EU migration deal, minister says (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Turkey must re-examine its migration deal with the European Union for it has become clear that the bloc will not live up to its promise to grant Turkish citizens visa-free travel, the country’s minister for European affairs, Omer Celik, told Reuters late Tuesday.

Visa-free access to the EU – the main reward for Ankara's collaboration in curbing an influx of migrants into Europe – has been subject to delays due to a dispute over Turkish anti-terrorism legislation and Ankara's crackdown after July’s failed coup."

Real or Empty Threat? Will Turkey send a new wave of refugees to Europe? (Keep Talking Greece, link):

"As relations between Turkey and Europe deteriorated, the government in Ankara did what it knows best: it fired threats. Exactly there where it knows it hurts Europe: The Refugees. At least two ministers told media that the government is considering to review the EU Turkey Deal. The statements were immediately understood as a threat that president Recep Tayyip Erdogan would open the doors and send a new mass wave of refugees and migrants to Europe. More than 850,000 people left Turkey for Greece in 2015.

Will Erdogan make his threats come true? Some people, like smugglers, think and hope, he will. But analysts believe, he won’t."

 A Message From Turkey, a Nation Under Pressure (NYT, link) by Patrick Kingsley:

"Before I left to begin reporting for The New York Times in Turkey — a nation strained by war, terrorist insurgencies, a refugee crisis and a widening crackdown on dissent — Turkish diplomats in Washington sent me on my way with a velvet box."

ECHR: Border-zone detention of two asylum-seekers was unlawful and their removal from Hungary to Serbia exposed them to the risk of inhuman and degrading reception conditions in Greece (Press release, pdf):

"The case of Ilias and Ahmed v. Hungary (application no. 47287/15) concerned the border-zone detention for 23 days of two Bangladeshi asylum-seekers as well as their removal from Hungary to Serbia. In today’s Chamber judgment1 in the case the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 5 §§ 1 and 4 (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights because the applicants’ confinement in the Röszke border-zone had amounted to detention, meaning they had effectively been deprived of their liberty without any formal, reasoned decision and without appropriate judicial review;..."

See: Judgment (pdf)

France to close another migrant camp, interior minister says (Daily Sabah, link):

"rance said Wednesday that security forces would start dismantling another migrant camp on its northern coast near the port of Dunkirk "as soon as possible" after clashes at the site.

The population of the Grande-Synthe camp has swelled to about 1,400 to 1,500 people since the destruction last October of the squalid "Jungle" camp near Calais, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) away.."

Council of Europe: European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT): Immigration detention (pdf): Very good summary of law and rights:

"Immigration detention is a primary focus of the work of the CPT. It has carried out hundreds of visits to immigration detention facilities, and has developed a detailed set of standards.

The CPT¡¦s standards build on legal principles originating from international (human rights) instruments, such as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR),the Committee of Ministers¡¦ Twenty Guidelines on Forced Return, relevant United Nations (UN) treaties, and the 2008 European Union (EU) Return Directive. A foreign national may be deprived of his/her liberty."

Greece: Suicides and depression increase on islands (News That Moves, link):

"From Kathimerini: Aid workers and NGOs have said that the number of suicide attempts and cases of depression among people living in ‘hotspots’ on the Greek islands is increasing. At the ‘hotspots’ on Greece’s islands, thousands of people continue to be stranded, unable to go to the Greek mainland."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (14.3.17)
One year after the EU-Turkey deal: migrants and asylum seekers are paying the price with their health (MSF, link):

" One year after the EU-Turkey Deal, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) released a report to expose the human costs of European policy failures in Greece and the Balkans. MSF calls on the EU and member state leaders to radically change their approach to migration and ensure a swift end to the unnecessary suffering of the thousands caught in the consequences of the EU-Turkey deal."

See: One year on from the EU-Turkey deal: Challenging the EU's Alternative facts (pdf)

EU: Parliamentary Tracker: Revision of Dublin, Qualification Directive, Refugees situation in Greece, EASO reform.. (LIBE debates on March 9,2017) (link)

NGOs urge Greek lawmakers to reject asylum changes (News That Moves, link):

"Thirteen Greek and international NGOs have urged Greece to resist external pressures and reject any legislative changes that could remove the existing safeguards within the Greek Law on Asylum.

In an open letter, the NGOs told Greece’s parliament that any amendment to the law, based on the European Commission’s Joint Action Plan on the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement, would further aggravate the situation for people arriving on the Greek islands,"

See: Open Letter: Urgent appeal from 13 NGOs not to approve amendments in Greek Parliament that will be harmful to asylum seekers (link)

Greek Ministry statistics: Number of refugees (13.3.17, pdf): 14,204 on the islands and 62,385 in Greece.

Are You Syrious (13.7.17, link)

Red Cross shamelessly prompts raids on refugee-run squats in Athens

"Police have raided and evicted the residents of two squats in Athens, one with more than 120 refugee residents, including children and people with medical conditions. This action prompted massive calls for solidarity and protests all around the city.

The raids were precipitated by the Red Cross, which owns the buildings in question, as they wished to retake control of the properties to rehouse unaccompanied child minors. The move is wildly unethical and even contrary to common sense, as the Red Cross is prompting the eviction of refugees to make room for another group of refugees. This makes little sense given the number of empty properties which can be found in Athens.... "

The Austrian government has deported an unknown number of people to Afghanistan

"Activists staged a demonstration against this decision, which is the result of the EU’s official policy that Afghanistan is a safe country of origin. Afghan refugees all across the EU find themselves worried by the increasing number of deportations taking place. Needless to say, Afghanistan is far from a safe country.

The UN reports that a total of 26,089 people in Afghanistan were forced to flee their homes because of the ongoing conflict. A total of 653,000 civilians were forced to flee in 2016, and the UN’s prognostications for this year look nearly as grim. They expect that around 450,000 people will become internally displaced."

Calais organization reports on the continued interference of authorities into the affairs of refugees as well as to stifle aid. Donations are needed

"The situation in Calais today is very difficult: Several hundreds of refugees roam around day and night, trying to climb into lorries and trying to run away from the police who is chasing them all the time. It is not rare to see the police running behing refugees to try and catch them.

The Secours Catholique has installed 8 modular showers on their property rue de Moscou, but the police is always there , most often arresting the refugees when they get out of the showers...."

UK sending Syrians back to countries where they were beaten and abused (Guardian, link): "Refugees tell of being held in cages and even tortured in European countries including Hungary and Romania."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (11-12.3.17)
EU: Council plans to "map" security checks on refugees, migrants and EU citizens at external borders on all available databases

The Council Presidency is preparing to launch a "mapping exercise" on all movements in and out of the EU at its external borders and also internally ("police checks"). See Note to: Standing Committee on Operational Cooperation on Internal Security (COSI): Security checks in case of irregular immigration - mapping exercise (LIMITE doc no: 6717-17, pdf)

For both all "third country nationals" including refugees and migrants and EU citizens the legal basis for carrying out "security checks" is:

"verification that the person concerned is not likely to jeopardise the public policy, internal security, public health or international relations of any of the Member States. Such verification shall include direct consultation of the SIS and other relevant Union databases, without prejudice to the consultation of national and Interpol databases."

EU:Council of the European Union: Qualifications Directive: Period of validity for residents permits (LIMITE do no: 6926-17, pdf):

Some Member States want to set "minimum standards" - 3 years for refugees and 1 year for subsidiary protection. While other back between 5 and 10 years for refugees and 1 to 5 years for subsidiary protection.

Statewatch Viewpoint: 9th report on relocation and resettlement: Mystification and selective use of data in effort to present a dysfunctional approach as “sustainable” (pdf):

"On 8 February 2017, the Commission produced its ninth report on relocation and resettlement, covering a two-month period from 8 December 2016 to 7 February 2017. It basically offers an update on the figures and developments from the previous report, noting the resettlement of 13,968 people overall under the scheme and 3,813 relocations in the reporting period, viewed as maintaining “the overall positive trend” with December recording the record figure to date (1,926) and bringing the total to 11,966, up from 8,162....

The point is that the very limited targets for relocations are not being met, and it would make very little difference to the situation in Greece and Italy if they were met."

EU: Council Presidency treads a tricky path in trying to get Member State "solidarity" on refugees

The last Council Presidency (Slovakia) sought to resolve the issues of "solidarity" in responding to the refugee crisis with the majority of Member States failing to respond to calls for relocation and set the results out in a report to Delegations: Solidarity and responsibility in the Common European Asylum System - Progress report by the Slovak Presidency (LIMITE doc no, 15253-16, pdf). In the public version of this document pages 3-5 are deleted).

The Presidency lays out the dilemma as: "there is broad consensus that the current Dublin system is not ready to face substantial migratory pressures and that this has to be remedied."

European Parliament Study: Implementation of the 2015 Council Decisions establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy and of Greece (pdf):

"examines the EU’s mechanism of relocation of asylum seekers from Greece and Italy to other Member States. It examines the scheme in the context of the Dublin System, the hotspot approach, and the EU-Turkey Statement, recommending that asylum seekers’ interests, and rights be duly taken into account, as it is only through their full engagement that relocation will be successful. Relocation can become a system that provides flexibility for Member States and local host communities, as well as accommodating the agency and dignity of asylum seekers.

This requires greater cooperation from receiving States, and a clearer role for a single EU legal and institutional framework to organise preference matching and rationalise efforts and resources overall."

Greece: Court to rule on Turkey's 'safe' status after appeal of Syrians denied asylum (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Greece’s highest administrative court is expected to rule later this month on whether Turkey can be considered a safe country for refugees being returned under a deal with the European Union.

The Council of State’s plenary on Friday heard arguments based on the appeal of two Syrian nationals whose asylum applications were rejected by the Greek Asylum Committee.

The Syrians’ lawyers argued that the rejection is a violation of the UN Charter of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention as the committee based its decision solely on Turkey’s assurances, without a proper assessment of conditions in the neighboring country."

Are You Syrious (11.3.17,link):

FEATURE: Children forgotten by Europe

"According to the official data, there is about 20,500 refugee and migrant children only in Greece at the moment, including around 2,100 registered unaccompanied minors. However, these numbers could be much higher for many kids, especially unaccompanied, are not registered at all which puts them in horrible and very dangerous situations.

Most of those children who are registered in Greece are living in hostels, squats, apartments, and only around 6 percent are placed in shelters. Out of this number, so far only 4.027 children were relocated to other EU countries from Greece...."

Greece

"Today, on Samos and Chios, 88 new arrivals were registered by volunteers. Samos Volunteers groups reports about 26 new arrivals around 2 am."

Greece: Police violence reported, again

"We received disturbing information from various sources at islands. The most disturbing comes from friends in No Border Kitchen Lesvos and it is about continuous police violence against refugees on this island. As they report; “every day on this island people are controlled, harassed, humiliated insulted and beaten....

This is not the first time that refugees and their supporters on islands are reporting these types of police acting, but so far we are not aware of the actions by the government or any EU institutions against it. We strongly condemn police violence and call for the responsible institution to act and stop this practice.”

Austria: New deportations and calls for tightening of borders

"Despite constant protest by the people, the government announced new deportations. Der Standart reports about government plans for the next week to deport another the group of people from Afghanistan, including a 19-year-old man with no criminal record even though officials announced that only persons with the criminal record will be deported."

CoE: Parliamentary Assembly: Hungary: rapporteurs express deep concern at new law to automatically detain asylum seekers (link):

"Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC), rapporteur for follow-up on human rights of refugees and migrants, has expressed her deep concerns about the new Hungarian law on the automatic detention of asylum seekers, which was adopted by the Hungarian Parliament yesterday.

“Hungary has been reminded by the European Court of Human Rights several times over the past years* that Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees the right to protection of refugees and migrants against arbitrary interference with their right to liberty. Article 5 contains an exhaustive list of permissible grounds on which individuals may be deprived through lawful and proportionate decisions for each case. An automatic detention of asylum seekers is in clear violation of the European Convention on Human Rights,” Ms Strik said."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (8-10.3.17)
EU: Hotspots for refugees in Italy and Greece have led to "serious fundamental rights violations"

A major study on current EU policies and practices regarding refugees warns that the "hotspot" system of detaining, registering and processing migrants "has led to instances of serious fundamental rights violations in both Italy and Greece," and that the failure of EU Member States to meet their commitments under the relocation scheme should "be taken seriously as a threat to the rule of law at the EU level, which may warrant exploration, as well as formal enforcement action."

EU: Eurodac: over four million sets of fingerprints now held

The EU Agency for Large-Scale IT Systems recently published the annual report on the use of Eurodac, the EU database that holds the fingerprints of asylum-seekers in order to enforce the Dublin Regulation on responsibility for asylum applications. The number of fingerprint sets stored in the system has increased massively, by some 51%, growing from over 2.7 million at the end of 2014 to almost 4.1 million at the end of 2015.

EU: Council adopts child rights guidelines days after Commission recommends more child detention

On 6 March the EU Foreign Affairs Council adopted a revised set of Guidelines on protecting and promoting the rights of children just days after the Commission adopted a Recommendation on returns policy that called for, amongst other things, stepping up the detention of children.

EU: New Statewatch briefing on cooperation between Frontex, non-EU states and international organisations

The purpose of cooperation between Frontex and third countries is principally to try to minimise the number of people arriving at the EU’s borders by extending the use of EU “border management” policies, techniques and technologies to those countries. Indeed, “measures in third countries” make up the first step of the “four-tier access control model” that was part of the EU’s original concept of ‘Integrated Border Management’. The other three were “border control, control measures within the area of free movement, including return)”.

This briefing provides a comparative overview of current agreements between Frontex and non-EU states and international organisations. It examines the overall framework for concluding such agreements, the types of agreements currently in force and their content, coordination and management of the agreements and other related issues such as forthcoming agreements.

Council of Europe: Italy should improve its asylum reception-capacity, prevent human trafficking and strengthen its child-protection system (CoE, link):

"“Italy should improve its asylum reception-capacity and integration policies, prevent human trafficking and combat corruption in the migration-related services sector” are the main recommendations in a report published today by the Secretary General’s Special Representative on migration and refugees, Ambassador Tomáš Bocek.

The Special Representative also stressed the need to strengthen the protection of refugee and migrant children; called upon the Italian authorities and the EU to expedite the examination of asylum claims and of relocation and family-reunification requests; and pointed to the risk that weaknesses in the system for voluntary and forced removals might be encouraging the arrival of more irregular economic migrants."

See: Report of the fact-finding mission to Italy by Ambassador Tomáš Bocek, Special Representative of the Secretary General on migration and refugees, 16-21 October 2016 (pdf)

EU: Council of the European Union: Resettlement, "Blue Card" (Legal migration) and Refugee rights

• Massive re-draft of Council position: Resettlement: Proposal for a Regulationl establishing a Union Resettlement Framework and amending Regulation (EU) No 516/2014 (LIMITE doc no: 5332-17, pdf): With 150 Footnotes on Member State positions.

• "Blue Card": Proposal for a Directive on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of highly skilled employment (LIMITE doc no: 6633-17, pdf): With 150 Member State positions in Footnotes. Council developing its negotiating position.

• Social rights of refugees: Theme: Socio-Economic Rights of Asylum Seekers and Beneficiaries of International Protection (LIMITE doc no: 5405-17,pdf). Highly detailed Member State objections in Footnotes.

This affects the Reception Conditions Directive, Recast Dublin Regulation and Qualification Regulation.

Further restrictions on rights in Austria’s asylum reform streak (ECRE, link):

"A new reform proposal aiming to exclude asylum seekers from reception conditions (Basic Care) as soon as their application is rejected reaffirms Austria’s restrictive policy. The proposed measures reflect a continued effort of diminishing the rights of asylum seekers in Austria, following on from a recent Aliens Law reform proposal (FrÄG 2017).

“Politcians create the impression that in the area of asylum there is a permanent need for reform”, states Asylkoordination Österreich in its assessment of the latest legislative proposal affecting asylum seekers in Austria."

Poland: Draft amendment to the law on protection of foreigners – another step to seal Europe’s border (ECRE, link):

"In January Polish Minister of Interior Mariusz Blaszczak presented draft amendment to the law on protection of foreigners on the territory of Poland. He claimed that there is a need to response to the growing migration flow in Poland and to ensure public security. However, he failed to explain what kind of danger to public security asylum seekers create amid lacking evidence that the number of crimes perpetrated by foreigners in Poland has increased. Moreover, official statistics show that, for the past years the number of asylum applications lodged in Poland has not exceed 15 000 yearly and neither has it increased recently. Taking this into consideration, it seems that the draft amendment reflects the national and regional trend of portraying foreigners as security threat and closing borders to persons seeking protection rather than the actual response to some changed situation."

GERMANY: Parliament rejects government attempt to classify Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria as safe countries

"In the end, the vote wasn't even close. Led by federal states with left-leaning governing coalitions, a wide majority the Bundesrat shot down a law written by the government and passed by Germany's lower parliamentary chamber, the Bundestag. It would have declared the Maghreb states - Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria - "safe countries of origin" and thus allowed for expedited deportations of failed asylum seekers there.

Representatives of the federal government and the conservative-led state of Bavaria argued that the law was needed to prevent people wishing to migrate to Germany for economic reasons from misusing Germany's asylum legislation. They said only a tiny fraction of asylum applications by people from the three Maghreb states have been approved."

See: German Bundesrat says Maghreb states not safe for refugees (Deutsche Welle, link)

EU: CJEU Case C-638/16 PPU, X and X – Dashed hopes for a legal pathway to Europe (European Law Blog, link):

"On 7 March 2017, the CJEU announced its judgement in case C-638/16 PPU (X and X / Belgium) and dashed all hopes for an extensive interpretation of the EU Visa Code in the light of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. To summarize the facts of the case, X and X and their three small children are an Orthodox Christian family living in rebel-held Aleppo. In October 2016 X leaves Aleppo to apply for a visa with limited territorial validity ex Article 25(1) of the EU Visa Code at the Belgian embassy in Beirut (Lebanon). The application states that the aim of entry into Belgium is to apply for asylum...

The Court first reiterates that Regulation 810/2009 establishing a Community Code on Visas (Visa Code) was adopted on the basis of Art. 62 EC Treaty, pursuant to which the Council had the competence to adopt measures on visas for intended stays of no more than three months. The visa applications in question, however, were for visas with limited territorial validity with a view to a future application for asylum in Belgium. Hence, the applicants’ intended stay was not limited to 90 days – and their visa-application should not be considered under the Visa Code, but under national law. As the application thus falls outside the scope of EU law, according to the Court, the Charter of Fundamental Rights is not applicable either.

In the last sentences of its judgment, the Court also adds that allowing third country nationals to lodge applications for visas in order to apply for international protection in the Member State of their choice would undermine the Dublin system. With this remark, inserted as if it were an afterthought, the Court seems to reveal the true motivation behind the ruling in X and X: to save an already failing system…"

See: Judgment (pdf) and Press release (pdf): "Member States are not required, under EU law, to grant a humanitarian visa to persons who wish to enter their territory with a view to applying for asylum, but they remain free to do so on the basis of their national law."

UK: Home Office ends policy of automatic settlement for refugees after five years (Free Movement, link):

"The Home Office has announced a new policy of reviewing whether all refugees require protection at the end of a five year initial period of leave. The policy appears to be effective immediately for all refugee settlement applications, including for refugees already resident in the UK and who were expecting to qualify automatically for settlement.

Because refugees, employers and colleges can no longer assume a refugee will qualify for settlement, it will be harder for refugees to find work, commit to educational courses or simply settle down and rebuild their lives. Combined with the cuts to English language classes for refugees, one is left with the impression either that the Government does not want refugees to integrate or at least that there is no-one sufficiently senior at the Home Office who is responsible for thinking about integration.

Any refugees refused settlement under the new policy will in theory face detention and removal, although with the numbers of enforced removals and voluntary departures falling year on year this seems unlikely in practice. More likely they will be inducted by the Home Office into the twilight world of the “hostile environment”, unable to work, rent accommodation, drive, maintain a bank account and more."

And see: UK Home Office: Refugee Leave (pdf)

EU: European Council, 9 March: Conclusions by the President of the European Council: economy, security and defence, migration

"The European Council deliberated on the attached document. It was supported by 27 Members of the European Council, but it did not gather consensus, for reasons unrelated to its substance.

References to the European Council in the attached document should not be read as implying a formal endorsement by the European Council acting as an institution."

See: Conclusions by the President of the European Council (pdf). Poland blocked unanimous adoption of the conclusions due to its displeasure with the re-election of Donald Tusk as the President of the European Council. See: Poland reacts with fury to re-election of Donald Tusk (The Guardian, link)

And see: European Council, 9-10 March: draft conclusions including security, defence and migration plus EP study on commitments to date

EU: Austria proposes EU funding cuts for states opposing refugee distribution (New Europe, link):

"Solidarity is not a one-way street. So said Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern ahead of the EU summit in Brussels on March 9. The Social Democrat called for increased pressure on member states that continue to shirk their responsibility in the redistribution of refugees.

“In future, the money from the EU budget must be distributed more equally among the member countries,” Kern told German daily Die Welt.

“If countries continue to duck away from resolving the issue of migration, or tax dumping at the expense of their neighbours, they will no longer be able to receive net payments of billions from Brussels,” Kern said in the article."

EU: Opinion: Fortress Europe is designed to keep asylum seekers at bay (Deutsche Welle, link):

"A year ago, the European Union closed the Balkan route to migrants, then made a deal with Ankara to send newly arriving migrants and Syrian refugees in Greece to Turkey. The desired effect quickly became noticeable: the number of new arrivals sank drastically, putting a dampener on the illegal dealings of human traffickers.

The EU's southeastern external borders continue to be "protected," to use the terminology of several statements issued by heads of state. The goal is to stop "illegal migration." The land borders between Turkey and Greece, and between Serbia and Hungary had previously been sealed off with fences. The plan is working.

But "Fortress Europe" isn't working between Libya and Italy. Last year, more migrants embarked from Libya to Italy via the Mediterranean than ever before. The EU also wants to shut this route down, as stated in numerous summit declarations. Here too, the EU hopes to employ deterrent tactics. It used to be that EU marine units would save migrants from their unseaworthy boats and bring them to Italy. In future, the migrants are to be taken directly back to northern Africa, or better still, prevented from even making the journey. If that worked, then Fortress Europe would be perfect. Because then there would practically be no way for potential asylum seekers to reach EU territory - not on land, nor via sea."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (7.3.17)
ECJ ruling continues absurd asylum impasse (euractiv, link):

"The European Court of Justice ruling this morning (7 March) that countries have full discretion to refuse humanitarian visas will have serious consequences for the EU’s ability to manage migration and for the lives and safety of thousands of people, writes Thomas Huddleston."

See: Judgment (pdf) and Press release (pdf): "Member States are not required, under EU law, to grant a humanitarian visa to persons who wish to enter their territory with a view to applying for asylum, but they remain free to do so on the basis of their national law."

Pushed back into Serbia, refugees describe brutal beatings by Hungarian police (Budapest Beacon, link):

"Most of the barracks’ residents have already attempted to cross the border into Hungary, many several times. All of them have been pushed back, and describe brutal beatings by Hungarian police personnel.

In a small medical tent, a young female medic was tending to an Afghan refugee. He showed her his deeply swollen leg—a Hungarian policeman beat him with a baton."

Greece: MInistry figures for number of refugees - 7.3.17 (pdf): The total number of refugees in Greece is 62,385.

Hungary decides to detain asylum-seekers in ‘container camps’ (euractiv, link):

"Hungary’s parliament today (7 March) approved the automatic detention of all asylum-seekers in container camps at its borders, sparking “deep concern” at the UN’s refugee agency.

The legislation, approved by a large majority of lawmakers, is in response to recent terror attacks in Europe carried out by migrants, according to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán."

Are You Sryious (6.3.17, link):

Islands

"Months ago the Greek government announced plans to move thousands of people from the overcrowded islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos to new facilities on Crete. As Ekathimerini recently reported, this plan is now in its final stages. The mayor of Rethymno, Giorgos Marinakis, said that the island would be able to “absorb” the new people, employing them in villages. However, he complained about the timing. “We had agreed to certain things last fall,” he said. “Now we’re at the beginning of the tourist season again,” he said to Ekathimerini.

As of this morning, on the Eastern Aegean islands a total of 61 new arrivals had been registered: 3 on Lesvos, 31 on Chios and 27 on Samos. According to official figures there are still more than 14,000 people stuck on the islands."

Hungary

"Over the last few days international media as well as Human Rights Watch have issued a series of reports about police violence in Hungary. The reports describe police practices, described by refugees, which include beating, kicking and forcing refugees to return to Serbia through the border fence. Doctors in both Belgrade and the transit area are treating the returnees. They have documented several injuries but of course can’t say who the perpetrator was. The abuses have been reported for a couple of months now."

Italy

"The Facebook group Italy-Refugee Crisis Database compared the number of arrivals to Italy over the last few years, relying on information from the interior ministry. They documented a massive increase in 2017 compared to the previous two years. While in 2015 and 2016 some 9,100 people had arrived in Italy by March 6th, this year more than 15,800 have already been counted. That’s an increase of more than 57 percent. The main nationalities of the new arrivals are: Guinea, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Bangladesh, Senegal, Morocco, Mali, Sierra Leone and Cameroon."

Top German and Austrian politicians: Block migration (News That Moves, link):

"From Bild am Sonntag: Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz and German Deputy Finance Minister Jens Spahn offered their views on migration in a joint interview.

Both top politicians said migrants should be stopped before reaching the European Union and hosted in refugee centres located outside the EU.

Kurz said, “We need refugee centres outside the EU, [that] could be located in countries such as Egypt, Georgia or a country in Western Balkans.” Kurz added, “People should not be let in at all. It is easier to stop them and send them back at the EU’s external borders than when they are already living in an apartment in Vienna or Berlin."

Great Inside Story: What went wrong with the Refugee Crisis in Greece (Keep Talking Greece, link):

"What went wrong with the Refugee Crisis in Greece? Two journalists, Daniel Howden (UK) and Apostolis Fotiadis (GR) investigated the issue and published their article under the title “The Refugee Archipelago: The Inside Story of What Went Wrong in Greece” in Refugees Deeply, an independent digital media project dedicated to covering the Refugee crisis.

The authors spoke with several of the 60,000 refugees stuck in Greece about their journey from a war-ridden country to Europe but also about their journeys inside Greece: from their arrival on the islands of the eastern Aegean Sea to the north of the country and the several camps."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (4-6.3.17)
EU: Call for tough asylum fingerprinting measures backed in draft EP budget committee opinion

A draft opinion on the new Eurodac Regulation written for the European Paliament's budgets committee calls for the adoption of "an EU procedure for forced fingerprinting," taking a similar line to an earlier draft report produced for the civil liberties (LIBE) committee.

NGO Statement: New EU Commission plans on returns and detention will create more harm and suffering (pdf): Signed by 90 civil society organisations, including Statewatch:

"Bowing down to political pressure to be “tough” on irregular migration, the European Commission has turned its back on the full implementation of human rights safeguards in its Returns’ Directive and is actively pushing member states to lower the bar."

See also: European Commission pushes for returns and readmission - having given up on relocating refugees within the EU

AIDA reports on Italy, Malta and Spain – Southern borders a laboratory for deflection policies (ECRE, link):

""“As illustrated in the country reports on Hungary and Bulgaria the Eastern border Member States of the European Union have become trendsetters in disturbingly ‘creative’ measures disregarding the fundamental rights of those seeking protection. Europe’s Southern borders are also a laboratory for deflection policies, with the ‘hotspot’ transformation of Italy’s asylum system raising grave concerns,” says Minos Mouzourakis, AIDA Coordinator at ECRE.""

See the reports: Italy, Malta and Spain (links to pdfs)

Terror and Exclusion in EU Asylum Law Case – C-573/14 Lounani (Grand Chamber, 31 January 2017) (European Law Blog, link):

"The on-going conflict in the Middle East has profound implications for the global legal order in two areas of law in particular: asylum law and anti-terrorist law. The European Union and EU law have not been immune from this development and in many respects are closely affected by these geopolitical developments and their legal impact. After a fitful start, the EU has become a major actor in the area of criminal law, and in particular anti-terrorist law, on the one hand and in asylum law on the other. The two fields meet in Article 12(2)(c) of the Qualification Directive, itself reflecting Article 1F of the Geneva convention, providing that an individual shall be excluded from eligibility for refugee status for acts contrary to the principles and purposes of the United Nations, acts which have been held to include acts of terrorism. Furthermore, Article 12(3) of the Qualification Directive extends that exclusion to ‘persons who instigate or otherwise participate in the commission of the the crimes or acts’ mentioned in Article 12(2). The status of terrorist and refugee are legally incompatible and mutually exclusive; one simply cannot be a terrorist and also a refugee. What, however, constitutes a terrorist for the purposes of Article 12 of the Qualification Directive? That essentially is the question at stake in Lounani."

See: Opinion of Advocate-General Sharpston (pdf) and judgment: Case C-573/14, request for a preliminary ruling in: Commissaire général aux réfugiés et aux apatrides v Mostafa Lounani (pdf)

SWEDEN: Several injured in fire at Sweden's largest asylum centre (The Independent, link):

"Several people have been injured in a suspected arson attack on Sweden’s largest refugee centre.

One man was seriously injured after jumping from a third floor window trying to escape the fire.

Around a dozen were treated with oxygen after inhaling smoke, while three people were taken to Norra Älvsborg Hospital in Trolhätten."

New EU-wide journalism project examines the lives of new refugees in Europe

"Like the people it covers, the migration story itself is on the move. In 2014 and 2015 it was all about the odyssey, the journey made by hundreds of thousands, haphazardly, perilously, up into Europe. In 2016, it was about Europe’s hesitant response, the political backlash.

In 2017, the focus is turning to the people who are suddenly in our midst. How are they adapting to their new lives? What do they miss? What’s it like to swap Homs for Hamburg, Kabul for Croydon - or Mosul for the Mosel, for that matter. Which European countries are best at helping refugees settle?

It is these questions that four major European newspapers are taking on in a new project entitled The New Arrivals. Over a period of 18 months, The Guardian, Le Monde, El País and Spiegel Online are embedding inside newly arrived communities in each of their countries to assess whether promises are being kept, whether European society is changing the new arrivals - and vice versa."

See: The New Arrivals (link). It should be noted that there is still very much a "migration story" related to people's journeys to Europe as people continue to die at sea and are denied their right to seek asylum. See: Statewatch Observatory: The refugee crisis in the Med and inside the EU: a humanitarian emergency

UK-FRANCE: Presidential elections should not let us forget the fate of migrant children from Calais (HRW, link):

"The outlook for child migrants took a turn for the worse when on 8 February, the UK immigration minister, Robert Goodwill, announced that the UK had ended transfers under the Dubs amendment—even though the government had spoken of accepting between 1,000 and 3,000 children when the provision was debated in Parliament. The UK’s decision to end this humanitarian program tarnishes its history as a refuge for thousands of refugee children during World War II. The UK should restate its commitment to the Dubs amendment and ensure that an overly narrow application of the criteria does not lead to unfair or arbitrary decisions.

(...)

The fate of these young migrants depends also on the French government response. The French government has left these young migrants in limbo, placing them in CAOMIs outside the regular asylum and child protection system as an interim measure. The agencies hired to run the centers have varied in quality—while some have done an excellent job, others have lacked experience in supporting unaccompanied child migrants. Communication between the young migrants and French social workers or government officials has often been difficult due to the absence of qualified translators. In one shelter that I visited in December, a crowd of young migrants gathered around me to voice their anger and distrust toward the staff running the place."

UK may return tortured asylum seekers to country they fled, says immigration minister (The Independent, link):

"The Government does not consider a person having been tortured in the country they are fleeing reason enough alone to accept a claim of asylum, the immigration minister has said.

Robert Goodwill told a parliamentary debate on torture that not all proven survivors of past torture “automatically qualify for protection” if they cannot produce additional evidence that they would be at risk of further serious harm upon being sent back to where they had fled."

EP study: The budgetary tools for financing the EU's external policy (pdf):

"In recent years, the European Union (EU) architecture for financing external policies has become more complex. In addition to the EU’s financing instruments in the EU budget, several innovative funding tools and mechanisms have been established. Driven by the need to respond to new challenges and unforeseen crises in times of tight public budgets, the EU has considerably diversified its toolbox for funding external policies. This toolbox now includes new funding tools, such as trust funds (TFs), and mechanisms, such as blending facilities, that combine funds from the EU budget with other resources. Instruments in the budget are also evolving to address the need for greater flexibility and simplification in the financing of the EU’s external policies.

As a result, EU funding for external policies is becoming more complex. This complexity creates challenges. Besides making the EU budget less transparent in the eyes of European citizens, these developments also pose challenges to the European Parliament (EP) in terms of budgetary oversight. As reform dynamics are picking up pace, it is important to take stock of the evolving architecture for financing EU external policies."

New EU Commission plans on returns and detention will create more harm and suffering (ECRE, link):

"Bowing down to political pressure to be “tough” on irregular migration, the European Commission has turned its back on the full implementation of human rights safeguards in its Returns’ Directive and is actively pushing member states to lower... "

See also: Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Home Affairs Letter to Ministers in June 2015 (pdf):

The Commissioner says that another reason for the low return rate is the:

“lack of cooperation from the individuals concerned (they conceal their identity or abscond)” [emphasis added]

To deal with this problem, the Commissioner argues that the Returns Directive provides Member States with the possibility “to use coercive measures, including detention” and “detention should be applied, as a legitimate measure of last resort.” The Commissioner reminds Member States that the Directive allows for detention for up to six months and “18 months in case on non-cooperation.”

Plan to move refugees to Crete enters final straight (ekathimerini.com. link):

"Following months of delays, a government plan foreseeing the transfer of thousands of migrants from overcrowded reception centers on Aegean islands to subsidized apartments on Crete is said to be in the final straight.

The plan was drafted last year and had been due for implementation in the fall but was delayed due to red tape involving the United Nations refugee agency, which is subsidizing the scheme, but also reservations on the part of local authorities."

Are You Syrious (4.3.17, link):

FEATURE: Another life lost in Europe

"A young boy from Afghanistan committed suicide shortly before his 18th birthday in Wasserburg, Germany where he was searching for a refuge. He came alone from Kabul, on a dangerous journey that lasted for months.

He was trying his best to start a new life, but life in uncertainty and insecurity draw him into despair, that many others feel. However, it is still unknown why he committed suicide. Volunteers who met him told the media that he was depressed, but also that he visited psychologist trying to find help...."

BELGIUM: Deportation to start soon

"Authorities in this country announced that they will start implementing the agreement they made with the Afghan government on voluntary return of illegal Afghan immigrants or will deport them.

In 2016, more than 2,700 Afghan citizens sought asylum in this country, but many of them were rejected. Some of them could be deported now including 530 people who were arrested last year."

DANMARK: More deportations

"Deportation is happening from Denmark, too. Afghanistan Migrants Advice & Support Org reported about at least 13 people who were deported to Afghanistan on 1st of March. They were deported on a charter flight."

Calais mayor outlaws food handouts for migrants (DW, link):

"Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart has introduced new laws banning people from gathering near the former "Jungle" camp site. The new rules effectively make it impossible to distribute food to migrants still in the city."

Almost 1000 migrants were rescued off Libya on Thursday: Italian coastguard (The Local.it, link):

" Some 970 migrants were rescued off the coast of Libya on Thursday, Italy's coastguard said, as the numbers attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe continue to rise.

Even before Thursday's arrivals, more than 13,400 people had arrived on Italy's shores so far this year - an increase of 50 to 70 percent compared with 2016 and 2015."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (3.3.17)
EU: European Commission belatedly make available: Africa: "Partnership Frameworks" report

Third Progress Report on the Partnership Framework with third countries under the European Agenda on Migration (pdf):

"this Report is linked to the renewed Action Plan on a more effective return policy and the Recommendation on the implementation of the Return Directive adopted in parallel by the Commission. Substantial progress on returns also depends on making legal and administrative processes inside the EU simpler and more effective, and also on ensuring full cooperation with third countries of origin....

The Commission, in close cooperation with the European External Action Service, will take stock of the approach and its results in reducing irregular migration flows, addressing its root causes and improving return rates when it reports in June, one year on from the launch of the Partnership Framework....

Progress in the negotiations of the EU-Nigeria readmission agreement is of the utmost importance: the first round took place in October 2016, but a second round of talks has been postponed several times by Nigeria...

Dialogue and cooperation with Mali on return suffered a setback following inaccurate media reports in December 2016 about the signature of a formal agreement on return with the EU which never took place, and Mali did not sign Operating Procedures on readmission." [emphasis added]

Comment. "Confusion" in the media was caused by the EU trying to "jump the gun" by saying it had signed the agreement - but Mali had not agreed: see: Mali denies agreement on failed EU asylum seekers (Modern Ghana, link)

Returns and readmission via "Partnership Frameworks" with African states: Commission calls for accelerated delivery under the Migration Partnership Framework and further actions along the Central Mediterranean Route (Press release) pdf) including "Factsheets" on target African state:

"Tangible progress has been made with the five African priority countries, Ethiopia, Niger, Nigeria, Mali and Senegal but efforts need to be stepped up to deliver results. Along the Central Mediterranean route, work is taken forward to better manage migration, continue saving lives, step up the fight against smugglers and traffickers and offer protection to migrants in need and increase
resettlement and assisted voluntary returns."

Annex (pdf): Detailed targets for "priority" states.
FAQ (pdf)

And see:

Secretive High Level Working Group hides EU's push for the return of refugees and quasi-readmission agreements (Statewatch)
New proposals on migration: "partnerships" with third countries, Blue Card reform, integration plan (Statewatch)
Viewpoint: Migration, EU cooperation and authoritarianism (Statewatch, pdf)
EU-Africa: Fortress Europe’s neo-colonial project (Statewatch, pdf)

Migrant Ill -Treatment in Greek Law Enforcement – Are the Strasbourg Court Judgments the Tip of the Iceberg? (link): Nikolaos Sitaropoulos, Office of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights:

"The present paper aims to provide an analysis of the first major judgments of the Strasbourg Court which usefully shed light on the underlying, long-standing systemic failures of the Greek rule of law. The author argues that these judgments are in fact only the tip of the iceberg. For this the paper looks into the process of supervision of these judgments’ execution by Greece, which is pending before the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, as well as into alarming reports issued notably by CPT as well as by the Greek Ombudsman."

Are You Syrious (1.3.17, link)

GREECE: Islands - official registration

"139 people have been officially registred today on the Greek islands. For the first time since January 30 new arrivals are registred on the island of Leros: 27 people. Another 71 have been registred on Samos and 41 on other islands.

During the month of February no people were registred on Leros, while 51 person was registred on Kos, 117 on Samos, 198 on Lesvos, 274 on Chios and 333 on other islands, making a total of 974 people officially registred in February."

ITALY: Higher number of arrivals to Italy

"IOM Rome reports that 13,457 migrant arrivals in Italy before the end of February represents a significant increase compared with arrivals in the same period during each of the past two years. Last year just fewer than 9,000 migrants had arrived by this date. IOM notes that Italian arrivals already are well above those recorded during the first two months of either 2015 or 2016.

Deaths at sea in the region this year also are running well ahead of fatalities in 2016, especially on the Mediterranean’s central route linking Libya and Italy. IOM’s Missing Migrants Project reports an estimated 444 deaths or disappearances of migrants on this corridor through 26 February, compared with 97 last year at this time - an increase of almost 400 percent."

EU: Relocation from Greece still too slow (News That Moves, link):

"In a fact sheet issued on March 2nd, the European Commission released updated information about the progress concerning the relocation program that EU member states had agreed to in September 2015.

The European Commission stated that 20.000 people currently in Greece are eligible for relocation to other EU member states.

Only 9,600 have been relocated from Greece. Last December, the EU proposed a target of 3,000 relocation per month for Greece.

However, the current pace of relocation in Greece is about 1,000 people per month, the European Commission noted, adding that “the total number relocated from Greece by September 2017 would be around 16,400 people.”"

EU-TURKEY DEAL: Question to the Commission: Effects of the General Court’s orders on the EU-Turkey Statement (pdf) from Barbara Spinelli MEP:

"if the EU-Turkey Statement had to be considered an international instrument, what would be the legal basis for the involvement of the EU institutions in its implementation?

Does the Commission consider the commitments already made on the basis of this text to be compatible with the orders issued by the General Court?"

See: EU-Turkey deal: who is responsible? Not the EU, says the Court of Justice


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (2.3.17)
Refugee crisis: Commission: Draconian Recommendations to "substantially increase rate of return"

Commission: Recommendation on making returns more effective when implementing the Directive 2008/115/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council (pdf) Publication was delayed several hours:

"The objectives of such an integrated and coordinated approach in the area of return should be to: ensure swift return procedures and substantially increase the rate of return...

put in place measures to effectively locate and apprehend third-country nationals staying illegally...

Member States should ensure that return decisions have unlimited duration, so that they can be enforced at any moment...

ensure that return decisions are followed without delay by a request to the third country of readmission to deliver a valid travel documents or to accept the use of the European travel document...

provide in national legislation for a maximum initial period of detention of six months that can be adapted by the judicial authorities in the light of the circumstances of the case, and for the possibility to further prolong the detention until 18 months in the cases provided for in Article 15(6) of Directive 2008/115/EC;

bring detention capacity in line with actual needs, including by using where necessary the derogation for emergency situations as provided for...

provide for the shortest possible deadline for lodging appeals against return decisions established by national law...

Risk of absconding

(15) Each of the following objective circumstances should constitute a rebuttable presumption that there is a risk of absconding:

(a) refusing to cooperate in the identification process, using false or forged identity documents, destroying or otherwise disposing of existing documents, refusing to provide fingerprints;
(b) opposing violently or fraudulently the operation of return;
(c) not complying with a measure aimed at preventing absconding imposed in application of Article 7(3) of Directive 2008/115/EC, such as failure to report to the competent authorities or to stay at a certain place;
(d) not complying with an existing entry ban;
(e) unauthorised secondary movements to another Member State."

European Commission pushes for returns and readmission - having given up on relocating refugees within the EU

Press release: European Agenda on Migration: Commission presents new measures for an efficient and credible EU return policy (pdf):

"the Commission is today following through with a renewed EU Action Plan on Return and a set of recommendations to Member States on how to make return procedures more effective.....

Remove inefficiencies by shortening deadlines for appeals, systematically issuing return decisions that do not have an expiry date and combining decisions on the ending of a legal stay with the issuance of a return decision to avoid duplicate work...

Tackle abuses of the system by making use of the possibility to assess asylum claims in accelerated or, where considered appropriate, border procedures when it is suspected asylum claims are made merely to delay the enforcement of a return decision...

Prevent absconding by detaining people who have received a return decision and who show signs they will not comply such as refusal to cooperate in the identification process or opposing a return operation violently or fraudulently....

Overcoming the challenges of readmission by working to swiftly conclude the negotiations of Readmission Agreements with Nigeria, Tunisia and Jordan and striving to engage with Morocco and Algeria.

Within the Partnership Framework, employ collective leverage in a coordinated and effective manner through tailor-made approaches with third countries."

Communication: On a more effective return policy in the EU - A renewed Action Plan (COM 200-17, pdf)

Annex 1 (pdf): Detailed plan

FAQ: Returns and readmission (pdf)

Returns and readmission via "Partnership Frameworks with African states: Commission calls for accelerated delivery under the Migration Partnership Framework and further actions along the Central Mediterranean Route (pdf) including "Factsheets" on target African states

European Commission: Relocation, EU-Turkey "deal" and EU Border Agency

"Solidarity" is a eupemism for failure of reclocating refugees within the EU:
Commission calls for renewed efforts in implementing solidarity measures under the European Agenda on Migration (Press release, pdf):

"Ahead of next week's European Council and in the form of three progress reports, the Commission is today making a renewed call on Member States to pick up the pace of relocation to alleviate pressure from Italy and Greece, with few having met their commitments in full....

the current pace of relocation is still well below expectations and below the European Council endorsed target...

the current pace will not allow for the relocation of all eligible applicants currently present in Greece and Italy by September 2017 – despite this being perfectly feasible. So far, only two Member States (Malta and Finland) are on track to meet their obligations for
both Italy and Greece, whereas some (Hungary, Austria and Poland) are still refusing to participate in the scheme at all and others are doing so on a very limited basis (Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovakia)....

soon, the Commission will not hesitate to make use of its powers under the Treaties for those who have not complied with the
obligations stemming from the Council decisions, noting that the legal obligation to relocate those eligible will not cease after September."
[emphasis added]

•  Tenth report on relocation and resettlement (COM 202-17, pdf)

•  Annex 1: Relocations: Greece (pdf)
•  
Annex 2: Relocations: Itay (pdf)
•  
Annex 3: Relocations from Italy and Greece by 28 February 2017 (pdf)

•  Fifth Report on the Progress made in the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement (COM 204-17, pdf)

•  Annex (pdf)

•  Second report on the operationalisation of the European Border and Coast Guard (COM 201-17, pdf)

NGOs urge Germany to meet relocation quotas (News That Moves, link):

"The German NGO Pro Asyl and other refugee rights groups are urging the German government to speed up the relocation of asylum seekers from Greece and Italy.

Pro Asyl director Guenter Burkhardt said, “There are empty places in reception centres, we have planes, but there is a lack of political will.”"


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (1.3.17)
EU-Turkey deal: who is responsible? Not the EU, says the Court of Justice

The European Court of Justice has ruled that it has no competence to judge the legality of the EU-Turkey deal on migrants and refugees as "neither the European Council nor any other institution of the EU decided to conclude an agreement with the Turkish Government on the subject of the migration crisis." The case was brought by three individuals seeking asylum in Greece, who sought to challenge the legality of the deal as it posed a risk that they might be returned to Turkey.

HUNGARY: Szeged court issues final guilty verdict in case of 10 immigrants charged with rioting (Budapest Beacon, link)

"A Szeged court has reached a final guilty verdict in an appeal hearing against 10 immigrants for their involvement in clashes with police at the Hungarian-Serbian border near Röszke in September, 2015. Among the convicted are an ill, elderly woman, a man who walks with a cane, and a man in a wheelchair. The court ruled that all of the accused had illegally crossed Hungary’s border as participants in a riot, index.hu reports.

The court sentenced four of the defendants to one year and two months imprisonment and banned them from Hungary for four years. Another man, who was observed speaking to the crowd through a megaphone during the border clashes, was sentenced to two years imprisonment and banned for six years from the country. That man, 22-year-old Syrian national Yamen A., was the only defendant to appear at the sentencing, and reportedly wept upon hearing the verdict. He has been in custody for nearly 18 months.

Each of the 10 immigrants spent at least nine and a half months in custody while awaiting the verdict in last year’s first-degree trial."

And see from December 2016: Hungary: Shameful misuse of terrorism provisions as man involved in border clash jailed for 10 years (AI, link)

EU: Refugee relocation: numbers up but Member States still need to provide tens of thousands of places

The Commission has published an update on the number of refugees moved from Greece and Italy to other EU Member States via the relocation scheme agreed in September 2015.

The number of people relocated has increased (800 people have been relocated from Greece and 504 from Italy since the last update on 8 February).

GREECE: Official figures on refugees and migrants in the Aegean, 1 March 2017

The detention centres on Lesvos, Samos and Kos are still massively overcrowded, with Samos holding 1695 "guests" despite its capacity of 850. As of 8:00 on 1 March, 139 people had arrived on Greece's Aegean islands.

EU: Research under Pressure: Challenges to Researching Country of Origin Information for Asylum Claims (Asylos, link):

"Thorough research is vital for a successful asylum claim. Such country of origin information (COI) is used to support specific elements in asylum seekers’ claims. As asylum seekers often lack documents that prove a risk of persecution on return, they rely on information from their countries of origin to illustrate their need for international protection. Specific pieces of information can support their testimonies of why and how they fled their countries; testimonies which are often disbelieved by national authorities in receiving countries. In short, COI is used to substantiate both the likelihood of persecution on return and the credibility of their individual stories.

We know surprisingly little about how NGOs and asylum lawyers conduct research for asylum claims. To close this gap, Asylos interviewed 20 asylum lawyers and NGO staff in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece and the UK to understand the challenges of researching evidence, as well as the opportunities for improving the research process."

See the report: Asylos: Research under Pressure: Challenges to Researching Country of Origin Information for Asylum Claims (link to pdf)

 

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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