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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 2018

EU officials fear new wave of migrants after Greek court ruling (euractiv, link):

"A top Greek court ruled on Wednesday (18 April) that migrants landing on Greek islands should no longer be held there while asylum claims are assessed, a decision raising alarm among EU officials in Brussels.

The prospect of new arrivals, often fleeing violence in the Middle East via Turkey, being able to quickly reach mainland Europe from the islands could undermine EU efforts to discourage people leaving Turkey.

An EU official described the ruling as a “big worry”.

Austria to seize refugees' mobiles and demand cash (The Local.at, link):

" Asylum seekers will be forced to hand over their mobile phones and up to 840 euros ($1,040) in cash to the authorities, under measures approved by the Austrian cabinet on Wednesday.

The money will be put towards the costs of their applications, while authorities will examine whether geo-location data from refugees' phones match their accounts of how they arrived in the country.

If the applicant is found to have previously entered another European country where the so-called "Dublin regulation" is in force, they could be sent back there."

Cyprus granted protection status to 1,300 asylum seekers last year (ekathimerini.com, link):

"The 28 Member States of the European Union granted protection status to 538,000 asylum seekers in 2017, down by almost 25 percent, according to Eurostat.

Cyprus granted protection status to 1,005 Syrians (78 percent) to 75 Somalians (6 percent) and 50 Iraqis (4 percent) – the island's contribution was 0.24 percent of the total granted protection in the bloc."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (10-18.4.18)
European Parliament study: Senegal: bastion of democracy, migration priority for the EU (pdf)

"Senegal has a long tradition of migration to the EU and other African countries, and today 5 % of its population live abroad. Remittances account for more than 10 % of GDP. As a priority partner in the Migration Partnership Framework, Senegal has been constructive in the political dialogue on migration, while maintaining its position that more should be done on legal migration into the EU. Senegal is one of the main benificiaries of the EU Trust Fund. Development cooperation, still at the core of relations with Senegal, has been structured to ensure increased coordination between the EU, Member States, and the Senegalese authorities. The challenge going forward will be to ensure that Senegal honours its commitments on the readmission of irregular migrants, and encourage progress on human rights."

EU: Migratory flows in March: Fewer arrivals in Italy (Frontex, link):

"In March, 6 200 irregular border crossings were detected on the four main migratory routes into the EU, down 63% from the same month of last year.

In the first quarter of 2018, the total number of irregular border crossings halved to 18 800, mainly because of lower migratory pressure on the Central Mediterranean route."

ITALY: Sequestration of the Open Arms rescue boat and the case against the crew: background, documentation and sources

On 16 April 2018 Statewatch published an analysis entitled 'The seizure of the Open Arms boat as a paradigm of the European Union's war on human rights', examining the charges levelled at the crew of the boat and the vessel's sequestration in Sicily. This page provides background information and documentation relevant to the case and the broader situation.

EU: Common European Asylum System: Qualification Directive: 6th trilogue - State of Play (178 pages, pdf): Four column document with the Commission proposal, Council and European Parliament positions and "compromise" column:

"In order to facilitate the reading, these parts have been highlighted in in the table below as follows:

- the parts in yellow concern cross-references to other proposals which depend on the finalisation of the CEAS package;
- the parts in in green mark the elements upo which agreement has been confirmed;
- the parts in blue mark the elements upon which the agreement reached at technical level has to be confirmed at political level.

New text in the fourth column compared to the COM proposal is marked in bold and new text compared to the previous version of the table is marked in underline. Deleted text in the fourth column compared to COM proposal is marked with […]."

And see: LIBE Commitee Agenda (pdf)

Greece: Persisting problems in the asylum procedure (Aitima, pdf):

"One year ago, our organization released the report Asylum Seekers "ON HOLD¨ whereby we highlighted serious problems in the asylum procedure. We remain very concerned, because most of these problems persist and at the same time new ones have emerged.

PERSISTING PROBLEMS

- The access to the asylum procedure at the mainland remains difficult, given that all unregistered asylum seekers are referred to the problematic Skype procedure.
- The authorities still impose a geographical restriction on all new-comers to remain on the islands with disregard to the principle of proportionality.
- The European Asylum Support Office is still involved in the asylum procedure exceeding its competence under the relevant Regulation.
- Everyday service of the asylum seekers at the Regional Asylum Offices remains problematic.
- The authorities do not yet provide free of charge legal aid at 1st instance to asylum applicants.
- The Asylum Service cannot yet ensure adequate 1st instance examination of the asylum applications in all cases.
- The problem of the 3.100 appeals pending for over two years remains and what is more over 400 backlog cases have been added to that."

FRANCE: Bill Could Undermine Asylum Seekers’ Rights - Amend Draft to Safeguard Access to Protection (HRW, link):

"(Paris) – A bill before the French Parliament on immigration and asylum could jeopardize access to protection and should be revised, Human Rights Watch said today. The National Assembly will examine the bill in the week of April 16, 2018, and the Senate in May.

“Under the guise of providing a more effective asylum system, the bill includes a series of measures that would diminish access to protection,” said Bénédicte Jeannerod, France director at Human Rights Watch. “The few – albeit significant – positive measures in the bill cannot hide the concerns it raises for people who were at risk in their home countries.”

Human Rights Watch is concerned about the following measures:

Lack of fairness in accelerated procedures... Shortened deadline for appealing rejections... Removals would no longer be suspended pending appeal... Increased maximum detention period... Migrant children in detention"

UPDATED: Migrants in Serbia still face difficulties, EU official says (euractiv, link):

"Migrants staying in Serbia are in a difficult situation and their integration into society should be enabled through education for minors and job opportunities for adults, a representative of the EU delegation to Serbia told EURACTIV.rs.

Nicholas Bizel said that many of the migrants have been in Serbia – which was on the so-called Balkan migration route at the height of the migrant crisis – for more than a year or even longer. He added that their chances of entering the EU are very slim and unlikely.

There are currently just over 4,000 migrants in Serbia, and in the first two months of 2018 more than 1,000 of them said they would seek asylum."

EU: Schengen Information System for returns: latest trilogue document

As part of its ongoing efforts to beef up the 'Security Union', the EU is establishing a new legal basis for the Schengen Information System which will increase the role that the database plays in deportations from the EU. The legal basis is currently being negotiated in secret 'trilogue' meetings between the Council, the Parliament and the Commission. Statewatch is today publishing the latest trilogue document showing the Commission's original proposal, the positions of the Council and the Parliament and any compromises that have been reached so far.

Statewatch Analysis: The seizure of the Open Arms boat as a paradigm of the European Union's war against human rights (pdf)

This analysis is based on the charges levelled at Proactiva Open Arms and was published in the wake of the crew's interrogation and the impounding of the Open Arms rescue boat. It was written by the steering group (direttivo) of the Osservatorio Solidarietà della Carta di Milano, which was formally constituted in January 2018. It was originally published in Italian. A prosecutor has now ordered the freeing of the Open Arms, although judicial proceedings are ongoing.

Italy: The Taranto Hotspot: Unveiling the Developments of EU Migration Management Policies (Border Criminologies Blog, link):

"Guest post by Carlo Caprioglio, Francesco Ferri and Lucia Gennari. Carlo is a researcher and activist. He is currently a PhD Candidate in Legal Philosophy at Roma Tre University. Carlo’s research focuses on migration law, administrative detention, labour exploitation and clinical legal education.(...)

In this piece, we take the hotspot of Taranto as a case study through which to explore the changes that migration and border control policies have undergone in the country. Since 2014, the EU Commission has played a leading role in defining migration management policies in member states. As depicted in EU official documents (such as the ‘Agenda on migration’ and the Commission's proposals for new regulations on the European asylum system; see here, here and here), these policies aim to prevent the arrival of migrants in Europe, as well as migrants’ mobility across the EU internal borders."

EU: CJEU: An unaccompanied minor who attains the age of majority during the asylum procedure retains their right to family unification (Press release, pdf):

"Such an application for family reunification must however be made within a reasonable time, in principle within three months of the date on which the minor concerned is recognised as having refugee status.!

See: Judgment (pdf) and: Childhood’s End? The Court of Justice upholds unaccompanied child refugees’ right to family reunion (EU Law Analysis, link)

More than 1,650 migrants crossed Greece's northeastern border in March (ekathimerini.com, link):

"More than 1,650 migrants crossed Greece’s Evros river that marks the country’s northeastern border with Turkey in March, despite the high water levels during winter, data from police arrests showed on Friday.

According the police, 1,658 people were detained after entering the country from the river last month, compared with 262 people arrested for illegal entry the same period last year. Most of the arrivals are Syrian and Iraqi families who brave the cold weather to attempt the perilous journey across the border."

Greece: Arrivals on the islands: Hellenic Ministry figures show that as of 12 April there were 15,267 refugees on the islands, including 8,465 on Lesvos.

EU: UNHCR Desperate Journeys report provides snapshot of changing refugee movements to Europe

Despite a drop in the number of refugees and migrants reaching Europe last year, the dangers many face along the way have in some cases increased, according to a new report by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, setting out changing patterns of movement.

The Desperate Journeys report found that sea arrivals to Italy, mostly from Libya, have drastically reduced since July 2017. This decrease has continued in the first three months of 2018, with a 74 per cent drop compared to last year.

CoE: Anti-Torture Committee calls for a co-ordinated European approach to address mass migratory arrivals in Italy (link):

"The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) published today a report on an ad hoc visit conducted in Italy to examine the situation of foreign nationals deprived of their liberty in the so-called “hotspots” and immigration detention centres, in a context of large-scale arrivals from North Africa.

The CPT recognises the significant challenges faced by the Italian authorities regarding the influx of new arrivals by sea. It also acknowledges the substantial efforts in carrying out rescue operations and in providing shelter and support to the hundreds of thousands of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants currently present in the country. In this framework, the CPT recalls the need for a co-ordinated European approach and support system to address the phenomenon of mass migratory arrivals."

And see: Executive Summary (pdf) and Full report (pdf)

Greece: Lesvos: Migrant arrivals continue, riot breaks out at Moria camp (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Authorities say a total of 607 migrants and refugees reached Greece’s eastern Aegean islands between Thursday and Tuesday.

More specifically, 418 arrivals were recorded on Lesvos, 120 on Samos and 69 on Chios. According to official data, a total of 1,173 migrants and refugees have reached the Greek islands since April 1.

Meanwhile, reports Tuesday said that a medical clinic was seriously damaged during riots at the Moria refugee camp on Lesvos late Monday."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (2-9.4.18)
Hungary votes to keep prime minister and right wing in power

""BUDAPEST —Viktor Orban, Hungary’s staunchly anti-migrant prime minister, was reelected Sunday after his right-wing Fidesz party was projected to win a supermajority of seats in parliament. The resounding victory will probably permit Orban’s government to continue with democratic backsliding."

UK: Shocking inspection report of Harmondsworth detention centre (These Walls Must Fall, link):

"An inspection report published today reveals the dark, unacceptable nature of immigration detention in the UK.

Harmondsworth is Europe’s largest immigration detention centre, with a capacity to hold up to 676 people for the purposes of immigration administration and enforcement. A new inspection report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons has found “considerable failings” in safety and respect for detainees, people being held for excessively long periods, and in contravention to the detention rules that are supposed to protect vulnerable people, including survivors of torture. The Inspectors found that large numbers of men with mental health problems were being held in prison-like conditions."

See: HM Chief Inspector of Prisons: Report on an unannounced inspection of Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre Harmondsworth site (pdf) and: Action Plan (pdf)

UN urges French government to provide for basic needs of migrants and asylum seekers in Northern France (ECRE, link):

"UN human rights experts are urging the French government to provide safe drinking water, sanitation services and emergency shelter for migrants and asylum seekers in Calais, Grand-Synthe and other areas along the Northern coast of France.

(...)

The experts also called for an end to harassment and intimidation of volunteers and NGOs providing humanitarian aid. They urged France to fulfil its obligations and promote the work of human rights defenders."

See: France urged by UN experts to take effective measures to bring water and sanitation services to migrants (UN press release, pdf)

Refugees: Greece Statement by 5 of the accused of the Moria 35 – Take action!

"On the 20 April, we are scheduled to attend trial in Chios after waiting nine months, trapped on Lesvos, while 30 of our brothers unjustly have waited in prison for this same time period.

Our humanity has been denied since we stepped foot in Europe, the supposed cradle of democracy and human rights. Since we arrived we have been forced to live in horrible conditions, our asylum cases are not taken seriously, and most Africans are denied residency in Europe and face deportation. We are treated like criminals, simply for crossing a border that Europeans can freely cross." (...)

Greece: 94 migrants rescued off Lesvos (ekathimerini.com, link):

"The Greek coast guard has rescued 37 migrants and refugees from a rubber dinghy off Lesvos island in the eastern Aegean, according to reports Friday. (...)

Also Friday, the crew of a vessel belonging to the European Union’s border monitoring agency Frontex rescued 57 migrants from an inflatable dinghy off Lesvos."

Comment: According to official Greek Ministry figures there are now over 8,000 refugees on Lesvos. Betwen 28 March - 3 April 592 refugees arriced on the island.

U.N. rights watchdog urges Hungary to halt hate speech, protect refugees (Reuters, link):

"A U.N. rights watchdog called on Hungary on Thursday to crack down on hate speech by politicians against minorities including Roma and Muslims, and repeal a law allowing police to expel irregular migrants without giving them a chance to seek asylum."

France to extend internal EU border checks (euractiv, link):

"France said Wednesday (4 April) it has decided to extend border checks with countries in Europe’s Schengen passport-free zone until the end of October because of the persistent threat of terrorism.(...)

A European Commission spokesman confirmed “we received notification from France this week” to extend controls for six months beyond the 30 April expiry date."


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

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