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

This Observatory covers the arrival of refugees and migrants, the reactions and failures within the EU (both governmental and within communities).

Edited by Tony Bunyan. See: "We are ashamed": Statement on Mediterranean: "The EU is behaving shamefully"

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February 2018

Frontex: Europe's new law enforcement agency? (euobserver, link):

"When the EU border and coast guard agency known as Frontex started in 2005, it had a €6m budget. Today it pulls in €320m and employs over 530 people, a staff number set to more than double in the next few years.

But its biggest change is elsewhere. Frontex has effectively become a law enforcement agency. Focus on migration has morphed into drug smuggling, document fraud, terrorism, and cigarette smuggling. It has even seized arms.

"I would not object if you define us as a law enforcement agency at EU level," Fabrice Leggeri, the agency's chief, told EUobserver on Tuesday (20 February)."

Greek Clouncil for Refugees: Legal Aid for Migrants, Asylum seekers and refugees in Greece: challenges and barriers (link):

"Greece has been the second refugee population receiving country in the EU since September 2015. More than 51.000 people are stranded around Greece (according to data published by the Greek Government1). The majority have applied for asylum while others wait for relocation or family reunification applications to be decided so that they can move on to other member states. Applicants for all processes require legal assistance: to ensure the appropriate asylum procedure is pursued, vulnerabilities are detected, deadlines met, the process is fair and that basic human needs are fulfilled, and rights are respected."

Nationalism in heart of Europe needles EU (BBC News, link):

"Not far away, at Hungary's southern border, the wind whips across the steppe, flattens the grass and whistles right up against the vast metal intricacy of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's border fence.

Few try to cross it these days. Even so a security patrol crawls, rather menacingly, along its barbed perimeter.

What is, for some, all about internal security, also represents this country's decision to prioritise national interest above that of the EU. It's a symbol of defiance.

It's also a vote winner."

Italy's Northern League pledges mass migrant deportations (Guardian, link): "Analysts doubt viability of far-right plan but it highlights nature of pre-election debate"

Macron's migrant law faces rough ride in parliament (digitaljournal.com, link):

"French President Emmanuel Macron faces a difficult week as lawmakers weigh up a controversial bill that toughens France's stance on migrants, with even some of his own party reluctant to back it.

After France processed a record 100,000 asylum applications last year, Macron vowed to grant asylum faster but also to deport economic migrants more swiftly, while better integrating those who stay. The new law will be presented to his cabinet Wednesday ahead of parliamentary debates that promise to be stormy, with migrant charities and left-wingers blasting the bill as repressive.

Staff at France's asylum court and the Ofpra refugee protection office are even set to strike Wednesday over a law that unions have blasted as "an unquestionable break with France's tradition of asylum"

How the E.U.’s Migrant Crisis Reached the Streets of Brussels (NYT, link):

" The city is freezing. At night, Hamza Khater eats and sleeps at a volunteer-run shelter. He spends his days hanging around the international bus stop next to the Gare du Nord.

“What am I looking for? I am looking for a life,” said Mr. Khater, 31, who fled the violence-ravaged Sudanese region of Darfur a year ago. Specifically, he is looking for a chance to reach Britain. He has been for months."

New Council returns and readmission strategy to target African countries


- By-passing formal readmission agreements: "a number of non-legally binding informal arrangements aimed at reinforcing cooperation in the area of return policy have been concluded with a number of relevant third countries."

- "The gap between the orders to leave the territory and the effectively implemented returns remains significant. In particular, cooperation with relevant African countries is still totally unsatisfactory."

- "Partnership Framework" in Africa: Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments: "This policy is best seen as asking EU Member States to use their histories of imperialism, oppression and exploitation to get African states to sort out the EU’s problem."

See: Bulgarian Council Presidency "Draft" Note to Member States on:
"Enhancing the returns from the European Union" (LIMITE doc no: 6047-18, pdf)

Orbán calls for global anti-migrant alliance with eye on April elections (euractiv, link):

"Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán called yesterday (18 February) for a global alliance against migration as his right-wing populist Fidesz party began campaigning for an 8 April election in which it is expected to win a third consecutive landslide victory.

Popular at home but increasingly at odds politically and economically with mainstream European Union peers, Orbán has thrived on external controversy, including repeated clashes with Brussels and lately the United Nations."

Italy used to be a tolerant country, but now racism is rising (Guardian, link):

"The upcoming election has unleashed a tide of anti-migrant action, whose roots can be traced to the financial crisis and the country’s weakened leftwing ."

EU will not lift visas unless Turkey eases terrorism laws (euractiv, link):

"The European Union told Turkey today (16 February) it would not ease travel requirements for its citizens unless Ankara softens counter-terrorism laws that the bloc says are excessive.

The EU has been taken aback by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security crackdown following a botched coup in 2016 that saw some 50,000 people, including journalists, arrested and 150,000 more, from teachers to judges to soldiers, sacked or suspended from their jobs.

That has soured the bloc’s relations with its NATO ally that is also instrumental in keeping a lid on Middle East immigration to Europe."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (7.2.18-17.2.18)
Monitoring the EU-Turkey Deal: (harekact.bordermonitoring.eu, link): The Myth of Voluntary Deportations – “Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration” from Greece (link)

Far-right nationalists rally in Bulgarian capital (DW, link):

"Hundreds of Bulgarian nationalists have marched in Sofia in an annual celebration of World War II general Hristo Lukov, a Nazi collaborator. The city government was unsuccessful in its attempt to stop the demonstration."

ECRIS-TCN trilogue discussions: four-column document and Council position on EP amendments

Council of the European Union: ECRIS-TCN: Proposal for a Regulation establishing a centralised system for the identification of Member States holding conviction information on third country nationals and stateless persons (TCN) to supplement and support the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS-TCN system) and amending Regulation (EU No 1077/2011 - Four column table with Presidency suggestions/comments (LIMITE doc no: 5505-18,104 pages, pdf): Four column document setting out: Commission proposal, European Parliament amendments, Council general approach and "compromise" position."

And see: Questions concerning the EP amendments (LIMITE doc no: 5730-18, pdf):

"In view of the first trilogue, which is scheduled for Wednesday 7 March, the Presidency (PRES) would like to obtain a view of the positions of the Member States on the EP amendments. PRES would also very much appreciate Member States bringing forward arguments that could be used during the negotiations.(...)

Far-right parties re-register to access EU funds (euobserver, link):

"Two far-right European political parties are now officially registered, opening European parliament funding opportunities for 2019.

The far-right nationalist Alliance for Peace and Freedom (APF) was listed as registered at an independent oversight authority on Wednesday (14 February).

APF members include politicians from the Greek neo-nazi Golden Dawn party and Germany's NPD, another ultra-nationalist political party with a neo-nazi ideology."

ITALY: ECHR asks Italy for clarification on minors held at hotspot (InfoMigrants, link):

"The European Court of Human Rights has asked the Italian government to provide clarification by May 14 following reports from an association that unaccompanied foreign minors had been held illegally in the migrant hotspot in the southern city of Taranto.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has declared admissible the appeals brought in July and August 2017 by 14 unaccompanied foreign minors from Bangladesh, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali and Senegal, and asked the Italian government to provide clarification concerning claims that they had been "held illegally" in the hotspot in Taranto, the association for legal studies on immigration (ASGI) has said."

And see: another case regarding Italy: ASGI and ARCI appeal against mass deportation to Sudan deemed admissible by the ECtHR (Statewatch News Online, 12 January 2018)

Are You Syrious (15.2.18, link):

ITALY: Where else do the corridors lead to?

"In the past months, we have been hearing more and more about humanitarian corridors and other ways to thought possible to “regularly” enter Europe. UNHCR has recently posted the news that, since November 2017, it has moved more than 1,000 people out of Libya and is now looking to establish similar permanent solutions to allow people to reach safe countries without having to risk their lives. Note that flights and journeys are not necessarily directed towards Europe, but could be to ANY country deemed a “safe” third country."

UK: Refugee Rights Europe releases report on British hostile attitudes towards refugees

"The newly-released Refugee Rights Europe report highlights the hostile environment that many refugees in Britain encounter. The report is the result of, among other things, a number of interviews with refugees, the largest contingent of which comes from Sudan, followed by Kuwait, Eritrea, Iraq, and Morocco."

Greece: Refugee with Legal Status in Germany Pushed Back to Turkey (Enough is Enough, link):

"The 23 year old Syrian refugee K. went from Germany to Greece to meet his younger brother who were supposed to come from Turkey by the end of November 2016. When he looked for him in Didimoticho, Greece, showing a photo of the 11-year old brother, he was arrested. 14 months later, K. is back in Greece after being pushed back to Turkey with 50 other migrants on the 30th of November 2016."

Greece: Refugee with Legal Status in Germany Pushed Back to Turkey (Enough is Enough, link):

"The 23 year old Syrian refugee K. went from Germany to Greece to meet his younger brother who were supposed to come from Turkey by the end of November 2016. When he looked for him in Didimoticho, Greece, showing a photo of the 11-year old brother, he was arrested. 14 months later, K. is back in Greece after being pushed back to Turkey with 50 other migrants on the 30th of November 2016."

and ARCI appeal against mass deportation to Sudan deemed admissible by the ECtHR (Statewatch News Online, 12 January 2018)

UK: Home Office delivery of Brexit: immigration (Home Affairs Committee report, pdf): Home Office is one of the key government departments involved in delivering Brexit. We are assessing the Home Office’s capacity to meet this challenge in a number of policy areas. We published a report on customs operations in November.1 We expect to report soon on post-Brexit policing and security cooperation. In this inquiry we have examined the challenges facing the Home Office in delivering immigration services once the UK leaves the European Union.

...the Home Office needs to plan for delivery of new arrangements, some of which are due to start later this year and some of which are due to be in place for March 2019. The Home Office has been allocated around £60 million for Brexit contingency planning in the current year, but it is unclear what it is being spent on.

Registration and administration arrangements need to change, new IT systems need to be developed, enforcement mechanisms need to adapt, and customs and border arrangements may have to change too. More than three million EU citizens living in the UK, and a further 230,000 EU citizens a year if current levels of immigration persist, may become subject to immigration control."

And see: MPs call for review into May's 'hostile environment' for migrants (poliitcs.co.uk, link): " MPs have today called for a review into the impact of the government's 'hostile environment' policies which are designed to make life as difficult as possible for undocumented migrants."

French woman faces charges for 'aiding' asylum seekers (Al Jazeera, link):

""I'm going to continue," Landry told Al Jazeera in a telephone interview from Menton, a town in southeastern France near the border with Italy.

"I know I'm within my rights and I want to assert my rights."

But Landry said those rights were put in question during an incident last July.

According to the activist, she was standing on the French side of the Menton-Vintimille border crossing between France and Italy when she witnessed Italian police forcibly return two young men to French territory. (...)

But Landry, who works with the French branch of Amnesty International and Anafe, a group that provides assistance to foreign nationals at French borders, now faces criminal charges for her actions."

Spain proposes EU-Morocco accord to Frontex (InfoMigrants, link):

"Madrid has proposed to the European Union an agreement with Morocco similar to the deal with Turkey to stem the flow of migrants entering the country illegally. In 2017, there was a 100 percent increase compared to the year before.

"Morocco is making an enormous effort to loyally ensure cooperation with Spain on immigration", Security Minister Jose Antonio Nieto was quoted as saying by newspaper ABC. The government of Mariano Rajoy "is constantly conveying to Frontex", the European border agency, ''the need to start a strategically organized policy to deal with migrant issue'', added Nieto.

The minister recalled that what he called a "very solid alliance" established with Turkey had given results as illegal arrivals in Greece went down 77 percent last year."

Hungary plans to paralyse NGOs dealing with migration (euobsserver, link):

"Hungary's government submitted a so-called "Stop Soros" legislation package to parliament late Tuesday (13 February), which would grant the interior minister powers to ban civil groups deemed to support migration.

The bill is part of prime minister Viktor Orban's anti-immigration drive that has recently targeted Hungarian-born US financier and philanthropist George Soros, who has been promoting liberal values through his foundation, Open Society. "

Can Immigrant Detainees Have a #MeToo Movement? Abuses Run Rampant in the Sprawling Network of Detention Centers (HRW, link);

"The #MeToo movement has reached Hollywood, the press, restauranteurs, the White House, and even the gambling industry. But can it bring change for sexual assault victims in immigration detention?

Laura Monterrosa is a lesbian asylum seeker from El Salvador who is being held in the privately run Hutto Detention Center in Texas. Last year, she told authorities that she was sexually assaulted repeatedly by a female guard. When Laura said she would report her, the guard allegedly said, “Do you think they’ll believe you or me?” In December, the FBI launched a civil rights investigation looking into her case."

Hungary and Austria agree on ways to tackle migrant crisis (abouthungary.hu, link):

"Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has said that migration poses the greatest threat to Europe’s future, which should be protected.

The prime minister made the comment while meeting Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in Vienna on Tuesday.

“There exists a Christian culture and a way of life, which we would like to protect,” PM Orbán said. He added that we should preserve Europe’s identity and Christian foundations."

Misery for Women and Girls in Greece’s Island Paradise - Government Downplays Sexual Violence Risks in Migrant Hotspots (HRW, link):

"“Refugee women and children face heightened risk of sexual violence amid tensions and overcrowding at reception facilities on Greek islands.”

This is the alarming title of the report published Friday by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), expressing grave concerns for the safety of women and children in the so-called refugee “hotspots” on Greece’s islands. The Greek government quickly responded – but not as you would hope."

Brussels must bite the bullet on a common EU migration policy (euractiv,link):

"The EU Commission is soon to re-enter the conflict over immigration. Whether it will do so timidly or in a blaze of political courage remains to be seen when it unveils ideas for a ‘European Labour Authority,” writes Giles Merritt.

Giles Merritt is the founder and chairman of Friends of Europe."

Frontex: Migratory flows in January: Arrivals in Spain and Greece down, rise in Italy (link):

"In January, 8 300 irregular border crossings were detected on the four main migratory routes into the EU, down 7% from a year ago.

The number of migrants arriving in Italy via the Central Mediterranean route in January rose to more than 4 800, double the figure from the previous month (...)

According to preliminary data, Eritreans were the largest group of migrants detected on this route, followed by nationals of Pakistan and Tunisia. In recent months, Frontex also noted an increase in the number of Libyans making their way across the Mediterranean."

European Commission: Border management: European Border and Coast Guard Agency strengthens operational cooperation with Albania (pdf):

"Once in force, the agreement will allow the Agency to provide assistance in the field of external border management and will enable European Border and Coast Guard Agency teams to be swiftly deployed on Albanian territory in case of a sudden shift in migratory flows.(...)

Today's draft agreement is the first negotiation to be concluded between the European Border and Coast Guard Agency and the EU's partners in the Western Balkans."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (5.2.18-7.2.18)
HUNGARY: Operation Starve & Strangle: how the government uses the law to repress Hungary's civic spirit (Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ) and Hungarian Helsinki Committee, pdf)

"On 18 January 2018, the Hungarian government launched the ‘ Stop Soros ’ package, a proposal of three laws that target civil society organisations... These laws follow up on the 2017 NGO Law on foreign-funded organisations (Act LXXVI of 2017) over which the European Commission has decided to refer Hungary to the EU Court of Justice. The 2017 NGO Law requires that NGOs receiving foreign funding over €24,000 register on a separate list, report and publicly label themselves as ‘foreign-funded’ or face sanctions.

The latest proposal comes amidst a wider effort to stigmatize specific individuals and non-governmental organisations, and has been presented as a bid to stop ‘illegal migration’, to ‘strengthen the protection of borders’ and to ‘protect Hungary’s national security interests’. The proposed measures will affect a number of areas key to the functioning of civic life in Hungary. Despite their name, they not only target those who allegedly engage in supporting or funding ‘illegal migration’, but through less-conspicuous provisions also target the wider group of NGOs."

And see: “Observer”: The Stop Soros bills–Hopefully only propaganda and nonsense (Hungarian Spectrum, link)

How refugee and migrant solidarity groups are confronting the hostile environment (IRR News,link) by Frances Webber:

"A review of recent pan-European developments in the criminalisation of solidarity. New developments are emerging in the criminalisation of solidarity, as the hostile environment principle, familiar to us in the UK, is adapted to other European contexts, further shrinking the space for solidarity.(...)

It was back in November 2017 that the IRR published its research, Humanitarianism: the unacceptable face of solidarity. At that time, we sent a copy the European Commission, asking them in a covering letter to reconsider the decision they made in March 2007. Two months later, at the end of January, the Commission finally replied. Their response (read it here) does not address the cases we presented, but argues that it is for member states to decide whether conduct is criminal or not. This entirely misses the point: a mandatory humanitarian exemption would not only set clear limits on states’ ability to criminalise acts such as rescue assistance if a humanitarian motive was established. It would also – and this perhaps explains the Commission’s reluctance – send a clear signal to states that there are limits to an anti-humanitarian political culture that, in abandoning refugees, criminalises humanity."

“Out of sight” – Second edition (MSF, link):

"This report is a follow-up to the research contained in "Out of Sight" - Asylum seekers and refugees in Italy: informal settlements and social marginalisation. It is the result of constant monitoring activities carried out in 2016 and 2017 by way of repeated field visits and in collaboration with an extensive network of local associations."

EU: ETIAS: Trilogue discussions on: Proposal for a Regulation establishing a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) and amending Regulations (EU) No 515/2014, (EU) 2016/399, (EU) 2016/794 and (EU) 2016/1624 (377 pages, pdf): State of play: Commission proposal, Council position, European Parliament position and "compromise" position.

See also::Four-column on the amendments to the Europol Regulation based on ETIAS (pdf)

EU: Commission responses to parliamentary questions: Dublin returns to Greece; arrivals in Sardinia; European Tracking Solution; Europol internet monitoring platform

Recent responses from Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs, to questions from MEPs on

UK: 'A lottery': asylum system is unjust, say Home Office whistleblowers (The Guardian, link):

"The British asylum process is a lottery and many asylum interviews are rushed, biased and resolved by “cut and paste” decisions by overworked Home Office staff, whistleblowers have told the Guardian.

Former staff employed in deciding asylum claims said some colleagues had a harsh, even abusive, attitude towards applicants, mocking them to one another and employing “intimidation tactics” during interviews.

As a result, the whistleblowers said, the asylum system was in effect a lottery, depending on the personal views of the decision-maker who picked up the file. They said some staff took pride in rarely, if ever, granting asylum."

And see, from eight years ago: Border staff humiliate and trick asylum seekers – whistleblower (The Guardian, link): "Claims that asylum seekers are mistreated, tricked and humiliated by staff working for the UK Border Agency are to be investigated in parliament."

EU: Few migrants returned to Turkey under 2016 deal (EUobserver, link):

"The vast majority of people arriving on the Greek islands from Turkey to seek asylum are not being returned, as was demanded under an EU-Turkey migrant swap deal.

(...)

Fewer than 2,000 have been returned between March 2016 and November 2017, according to the European Commission. Around 12,000 Syrians have resettled from Turkey."

IRELAND: A nation of welcomes? New figures challenge the Republic of Ireland’s record on asylum and immigration (The Detail, link):

"ALMOST nine out of every 10 asylum applications were turned down in the Republic of Ireland since 2008, according to new figures revealed by The Detail, which also show an upward trend in the number of non-EU citizens refused entry.

As part of a special investigation supported by the Mary Raftery Journalism Fund and the Tony Ryan Trust, The Detail analysed and visualised data relating to asylum and immigration to provide a comprehensive picture of the republic’s response to the global refugee crisis.

Using data sourced from the European Commission database, Eurostat, this analysis reveals that almost nine in every ten asylum applications considered by Irish authorities were refused between 2008 and 2016.

Eurostat figures also show that the republic’s 13% rate of granting asylum compares poorly with an EU average of 44% between 2008 and 2016.

This analysis further reveals that 28,000 non-EU citizens were refused entry to the republic since 2008 and that invalid or false visas or permits was the main reason for refusal."

And see: Rohingya man in ‘right to work’ case seeks reunification with children (The Irish Times, link): "The Rohingya man at the centre of the “right to work” case has asked the Minister for Justice to allow his three children, two of whom are in an orphanage in Bangladesh, to join him here."

EU politicising development aid to build Fortress Europe (euractiv, link):

"EU investments should not be used to blackmail or externalise borders. Particularly if the EU really wants to tackle the root causes of forced migration, writes Xabier Benito Ziluaga.

Xabier Benito Ziluaga is a member of the European Parliament from the GUE/NGL group, Spain-Podemos."

Attacks on immigrants highlight rise of fascist groups in Italy (Guardian, link):

"More than 70 years after Benito Mussolini’s death, thousands of Italians are joining self-described fascist groups in a surge of support that antifascist groups blame on the portrayal of the refugee crisis, the rise of fake news and the country’s failure to deal with its past.

The shooting in Macerata on Saturday that left six Africans injured was only the latest in a series of attacks perpetrated by people linked to the extreme right. According to the antifascist organisation Infoantifa Ecn, there have been 142 attacks by neofascist groups since 2014."

Human smugglers in Libya have links to security services: U.N. report (Reuters, link):

"Most armed groups involved in human smuggling and trafficking in Libya have links to the country’s official security institutions, sanctions experts said in a confidential report to a U.N. Security Council committee seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

(...)

Eritrean migrants told the sanctions monitors they had been arrested by the Special Deterrence Force (SDF), which is an armed group affiliated with the internationally recognized Government of National Accord’s Ministry of Interior, the report said.

The migrants said the Special Deterrence Force handed them to various smuggling rings. “The panel is assessing whether the SDF’s leadership was aware of collusion and trafficking being conducted within its ranks,” the sanctions monitors wrote."

Are You Syrious (8.2.18, link)

FEATURE: A letter to Paris

"At least 128 unaccompanied minors (aged 13 to 17, mainly boys) are reported to be on the streets of Paris at these freezing temperatures, while some reports are saying there are around 400. “Many unaccompanied minors (…) are currently left to their own devices in the streets of Paris, without shelter, in negative temperatures, and thus exposed to a serious and immediate danger to their physical and mental health,” lawyers Catherine Delanoë-Daoud and Isabelle Roth, heads of the unaccompanied minors section of the Paris Bar, and Emmanuel Daoud, a member of the Council of the Paris Orde, alarmed in a letter sent today to the prosecutor and the prosecutor in charge of minors. They are asking the city and the prefect of Paris to put “all the material and human means in work to ensure effective protection of these minors.”

CROATIA

"In the wake of the death of little Madina, that occurred near the border between Serbia and Croatia, the Croatian Ombudswoman has submitted a letter to the State Attorney regarding the circumstances of the event. Croatian police issued two orders (one on 24 November 2016 and on 15 February 2017) that match the data on increasing violence against refugees and unlawfully preventing refugees from seeking asylum in Croatia that us civil society organizations have been warning about. The police, however, do not want to submit the text of the order to the Ombudwoman due to “technical difficulties.”

The Croatian Center for Peace Studies, in addition to initiating proceedings before the Constitutional Court (...)

Statewatch has updated its: Observatory on the European security-industrial complex

 


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (5.2.18-7.2.18)
EU:
Greece: Chios: NGO complaints about the treatment of refugees to the European Commission and its response

"After considering your response, we found your assessment of the current situation to be at considerable odds with the factual situation we daily witness on the ground"

NGOs on Chios complained to the European Commission about the treatment and conditions of refugees on the island: Complaints to the Commission signed by 11 NGOs (dated: 6 November 2017, pdf):

"We, the undersigned voluntary organisations, have been providing humanitarian aid on the Greek island of Chios for more than two years. We are writing to express our deepest concerns with regard to the situation of refugees on the island. Whilst the inhumane conditions on Chios for refugees is not a new issue, the situation has reached tipping point in recent weeks with an increase in arrivals, the withdrawal of most NGOs, and the closure of Souda camp in the city, which has left the EU hotspot Vial as the sole facility that accommodates refugees on the island."

EU: Asylum Procedures Regulation: latest Council text with Member State positions

The Council is developing its negotiating position on the proposed Asylum Procedures Regulation, part of the legislation on the revamped Common European Asylum System. There are 300 footnotes showing Member States' positions, many of which have been deleted in the censored version officially published by the Council.

GREECE/TURKEY: Investigation: Coercive 'voluntary' deportations leave refugees trapped in jail and facing torture (Al Araby, link):

"A "voluntary" returns programme being heavily marketed to refugees is leaving them stranded in inhumane conditions in Greek and Turkish jails for months at a time, and facing imprisonment and torture once they return to their home countries - if they are ever able to get there at all.

For many refugees arriving in Greece and Turkey, whose claims for asylum are rejected, the International Organisation for Migration's Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programme is effectively the only alternative to brutal jail systems. They are forced to give up their right to appeal their asylum decision in order to escape six or 12 months of confinement by accepting "voluntary" return.

...asylum seekers who have experienced the programme told The New Arab they were misled into accepting inhumane conditions, detention and torture, after joining a programme one lawyer called "a fist in a velvet glove… wrongful, coercive and distasteful"."

Bulgaria: 21 asylum seekers to be indicted for riot at refugee camp (Sofia Globe, link):

"During the height of the refugee crisis, when far more refugees were in Bulgaria, a riot erupted at the refugee camp in the Bulgarian town of Harmanli. A total of 21 asylum seekers from Afghanistan, who allegedly took part in the riot, are now being indicted by the local District Prosecutor’s Office.

The prosecution accuses the refugees, four of whom are minors, to be responsible for “hooliganism with boldness and cynicism” and for the destruction of property. The damage supposedly amounts to 85,000 leva.

The cause of the riot in Harmanli, which broke out on November 24, 2016, will not be part of the trial. Neither will police officers who allegedly attacked and beat refugees who were not even part of the riot."

Inside the EU’s flawed $200 million migration deal with Sudan (IRIN, link):

"As millions of dollars in EU funds flow into Sudan to stem African migration, asylum seekers say they are increasingly trapped, living in a perpetual state of fear and exploitation in this key transit country.

In interviews with over 25 Eritrean and Ethiopian asylum seekers in Khartoum and the eastern city of Kassala, as well as local journalists, and lawyers working on behalf of refugees, IRIN has documented allegations of endemic police abuse, including extortion, violence, and sexual assault.

The pattern of corruption and rights violations uncovered feeds into broader concerns over whether the EU’s migration policies are making a difficult situation worse."

EU and military and security industry meet on future of EUROSUR (Stop Wapenhandel, link):

"On 6 and 7 February EU and member states' officials meet up with military and security companies for the 'Industry Day on Border Surveillance and Integrated Border Management' in Brussels. The aim of the day is to discuss the future development of EUROSUR, the EU border monitoring and surveillance system. This shows again the close connections between the EU and the European military and security industry and the influence the industry has on EU border policies.

The Industry Day, organised by the Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs (DG HOME) of the European Commission, includes speeches and presentations by leading officials from DG HOME, the border security agency Frontex and the European Defence Agency. A speech on 'The role of industry' will be delivered by Giorgio Gulienetti, Head of National and International Technical Collaborations with Italian arms producer Leonardo (formerly Finmeccanica) and chair of the Integrated Border Security Working Group of the European Organisation for Security (EOS). EOS is one of the main lobby organisations of the European military and security industry.
"

ITALY: From Overcrowding to Dirty Mattresses: A Visit to Lampedusa (Liberties, link):

"After the suicide of a Tunisian migrant on 5 January and the outbreak of a large fight at the end of the month, Italy's national guarantor for people deprived of liberty, Mauro Palma, visited the hotspot of Lampedusa. The results of this visit were presented at a press conference on 24 January.

During his press conference, Palma said he was extremely concerned to find that, both legally and materially, the situation he found on Lampedusa was exactly the same as one year ago, meaning that none of the recommendations he gave a year ago has been implemented by the authorities."

SPAIN: Melilla calls for reform to repatriate minor migrants (Info Migrants, link):

"The government in Melilla is calling for a reform on the law on foreigners, to face "the flood" of unaccompanied minor migrants and to keep them in reception centers. The governor of the autonomous city in Morocco, Jose Imbroda, of the Partido Popular (PP) said these migrants aren't "disaffected or defenseless children" which they can receive when they reach adult age.

Imbroda, cited by Spanish media, said the situation should be faced "not in terms of minor protection, but as a migration problem"."

European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights: Closing of investigation in 6 February 2014 Ceuta police operation causing 15 deaths (Press release, pdf)

"Four years of impunity: Spanish judge refuses to hear survivors and to fully investigate lethal push-back at Ceuta border
Berlin/Madrid 5 February 2018 Four years ago on 6 February at least 15 people died and several more were injured during a brutal push back operation by the Spanish Guardia Civil - a paramilitary police force - at the border between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on the beach of El Tarajal.

On 28 January 2018 the judge in charge of investigating these events closed the case against officers of the Guardia Civil for the second time. This decision came though the regional court already quashed a similar decision in January 2017, explicitly ordering the identification, location and hearing of direct victims and witnesses. Subsequently two victims now residing in Germany informed the judge of their willingness to testify. However the judge hindered their participation in the investigation by closing it without hearing them."

See also: Case study (pdf) and: More than 125 NGOs call on the European Parliament to declare 6 February the 'Day of Victims of Borders' (El Diario, link): More than 125 European organisations will call this Tuesday, on the fourth anniversary of the death of 14 migrants at El Tarajal in Ceuta, for the EU institutions to officially recognise 6 February as the 'European day of Victims of Borders'. It is foreseen that the petition will be registered during the morning at the Spanish office of the European Parliament, in Madrid.

GREECE: Arrivals have doubled since August, migration minister says (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Migrant and refugee arrivals onto Greek shores have doubled since August 20 to reach as many as 180 people a day in clement weather, Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas said on Tuesday. (...)

“Whoever says that emptying the islands will improve the situation is wrong,” Mouzalas said, reiterating concerns that moving all migrants and refugees to the mainland will simply encourage more arrivals.

“In 2017, we transferred 27,000 people to the mainland and 19,000 arrived on the islands,” he added."

Frontex: Invitation for industry and academia (link):

"Workshop on projects/ideas for developing border security products/technologies/solutions

Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, intends to organise in December 2018 a workshop with representatives of the European industry and academia who lead, or are about to start/are in the incubation phase of ideas on research and development projects aimed at developing new products, technologies, solutions for border security and using financial sources other than EU financing (e.g. industry’s/academia’s own funds)."

Italy shooting raises stakes in immigration debate (Politico, link):

"A drive-by shooting in central Italy has pushed immigration to the forefront of the electoral debate, one month before Italians go to the polls on March 4.

A 28-year-old man opened fire on a group of African immigrants in the town of Macerata, Saturday, wounding five men and one woman. The suspect, Luca Traini, reportedly wore an Italian flag around his neck and made a fascist salute before his arrest, according to local media. A copy of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” was later found at his home.

The political reaction to the shooting split neatly along party lines, with the right-wing coalition led by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi blaming the attacks on the rising number of immigrants residing in the country."

DENMARK: Socialdemokratiet sets out asylum overhaul in 2019 election mandate (Copenhagen Post, link):

"Socialdemokratiet are the bookies’ favourites to form a government following the next general election, which will take place no later than June 2019.

And yesterday, Denmark’s biggest opposition party took what it hopes will be a giant step towards achieving that goal by proposing a complete overhaul of the current asylum process.

The new policy, entitled ‘Retfærdig og Realistisk’ (fair and realistic), will seek to put a ceiling on both asylum and family-reunification approvals – as agreed each year by Parliament – whilst adhering to UN refugee quotas."

UK: Growing number of refugees and asylum seekers falling into poverty in Britain (Independent, link)

"Exclusive: Thousands of vulnerable people destitute after being granted refugee protection.

The number of refugees and asylum seekers living in food poverty has soared by 20 per cent in a year, as thousands are left destitute even after being granted protection in the UK, The Independent can reveal.

The Red Cross warns that a lack of government aid for asylum seekers and a sudden cut-off in support once they are granted refugee status is pushing a growing number of vulnerable people into destitution.

The charity supported 15,000 people experiencing destitution last year, during which it recorded a 20 per cent rise in demand for food parcels and a 43 per cent increase in people needing baby packs since 2016 – with overall distributions now at a five-year high."

EU+ receives 43% fewer asylum applications in 2017 (EASO, link):

"The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) has published data on asylum trends in the EU+ in 2017 on a newly enhanced interactive portal. The results show a significant decrease in lodged applications for asylum compared with 2016, with 40% of decisions in 2017 being positive."

UK-EU: New UK data protection rules are a cynical attack on immigrants (The Guardian, link):

"In September, I warned in a Guardian opinion article that the Brexit process could have the effect of allowing the UK government to bring in more draconian and discriminatory immigration laws, harking back to the 70s and 80s.

Many people wondered how this would happen and the answer was that Brexit would allow the sweeping away of advances like the abolition of the hated primary purpose immigration rule made illegal by the European court of justice.

But now a far more profound and deliberate line of attack is being adopted by the British government in its national immigration policy, under cover of implementing the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), one of the biggest modernisations of data protection law anywhere in the world. Simply put, a new clause in the government’s data protection bill, which implements the GDPR, would remove the rights of people who are subject to an immigration procedure to know what public authorities hold about them and to rectify or delete erroneous or unlawfully collected personal data."

13,000 migrants repatriated from Libya, but many returnees face problems (EurActiv, link):

"More than 13,000 migrants have been repatriated from Libya since the beginning of December, the African Union’s chief said yesterday (29 January), nearly two months after reports emerged showing refugees being sold as slaves.

That number is short of the AU’s goal to fly 20,000 out of the conflict-wracked north African nation by mid-January, but chairperson of the AU commission Moussa Faki Mahamat insisted the campaign was on course.

“We have 13,000, and every day, the number increases,” Faki told a press conference after the closing of an AU summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa."

Portraits challenge Britain to see refugees as family (reliefweb.int, link):

"When Syrian teenager Abdulaziz Alkhaleed first arrived in Britain in 2015, he could not speak a word of English and even going to the supermarket made him nervous.

"I wasn't able to communicate," he said. "My first six months in this country I was isolated from everyone".

His life turned around when Ingrid Van Loo, a 51-year-old mother-of-three, welcomed him into her house in Epsom, near London, as part of a scheme run by Refugees at Home, a charity matching refugees with volunteer hosts."

Adapting to global human mobility after a refugee and migrant crisis (EurActiv, link):

"More people than ever are on the move globally. This raises the need for courageous European leadership and broad-based support from the media to depoliticise refugees and migrants and to free public opinion from irrational fear, writes Idriss Jazairy."

 


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (29.1.18 - 4.2.18)
The Afghan paradox – chaos and violence but safe for returns from Europe (ECRE, link):

"A series of new attacks in the capital, Kabul, illustrates the volatile situation in Afghanistan, a BBC report reveals that the Taliban controls or operates openly in 70% of the country and the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Factsheet describes the intensifying conflict. Yet, EU Member States continue to deport Afghan nationals."

Italy: Police say victims of drive-by shootings in Macerata are all foreigners (DW, link):

"Police in Macerata have arrested a man they say went on an hours-long shooting spree targeting African immigrants. The shootings come amid high tensions after an immigrant was detained in connection with a brutal murder."

Border treaty blamed for Calais migrant surge that has led to violence (The Observer, link):

"A deal to speed refugee processing has resulted in a 25% rise in arrivals at the port, stoking national tensions"

The refugee crisis isn’t about refugees. It’s about us (Guardian, link):

"The west has profited from globalisation but refuses to bear its responsibilities to displaced people. We have abandoned our belief in shared humanity"

Bulgarian PM criticises EU’s migration approach (New Europe, link):

"Speaking at a conference on security and migration management in the Western Balkans in Brussels on Thursday, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov lambasted the EU’s migration and asylum policy, calling it “a complete failure”.

Borisov, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency on the European Council, offered a number of solutions that could deal with the ‘chaos’ that resulted from the EU’s existing approach towards migrants.

Part of his initiatives may face misunderstanding among other member states.

Borisov was particularly abrupt when speaking about the migrant issue and repeatedly countered the claims of Dimitris Avramopoulos, the Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship, who earlier called the EU’s relocation and resettlement scheme “a European success story”."

Amnesty denounces Italy-Libya migration deal, says time to release thousands trapped in misery (New Europe, link):

"Ahead of the first anniversary of Italy signing a deal with Libya on measures to stop refugees and migrants from travelling to Europe, thousands of people remain trapped in Libyan detention camps where torture is commonplace, Amnesty International said Wednesday.

“One year ago, the Italian government, backed by their European counterparts, agreed on a dodgy deal with the Libyan government that has trapped thousands. People are being forced to endure torture, arbitrary detention, extortion and unthinkable conditions in detention centres run by the Libyan government,” said Iverna McGowan, Director of the Amnesty International, European Institutions Office."

Frontex launching new operation in Central Med (link):

"Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, is launching a new operation in the Central Mediterranean to assist Italy in border control activities.

The new Joint Operation Themis will begin on 1 February and will replace operation Triton, which was launched in 2014. Operation Themis will continue to include search and rescue as a crucial component. (...)

Its operational area will span the Central Mediterranean Sea from waters covering flows from Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Turkey and Albania."

Hungary will exit the series of negotiations on the UN’s migration package unless there is a positive shift (HUNGARIAN government, link):

"If there is no shift in a positive direction towards Hungary’s standpoint in the first draft of the UN’s migration package, Hungary’s exit process from the series of negotiations will be launched”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said. "

January 2017

Uproar at Belgian bill letting police raid homes for migrants (euobserver, link):

"Belgium is transposing into domestic legislation an EU law to kick out migrants - but a proposal by the government that would allow police to raid homes of people suspected of lodging an irregular migrant has caused an uproar.

On Tuesday (30 January), Belgian magistrate Philippe Van Linthout told national lawmakers that the government bill is also an affront to the judiciary. "One day we will wake up in a country where fundamental rights no longer exist. As a judge that is really something that we must warn you about," he said.

Migrants' heroine faces jail for people smuggling (BBC News, link):

"A Spanish woman has been credited with saving the lives of thousands of migrants crossing the Strait of Gibraltar to get to Europe. So why is she now facing a lengthy prison sentence?

When Helena Maleno gets the call, she does not think twice.

As soon as she has been told that a boat has set forth into the treacherous waters of the Strait of Gibraltar, she alerts the emergency services.

Based in Tangier for the past 16 years, Ms Maleno, who heads a non-governmental organisation called Walking Borders, monitors the movement of migrants and helps to call rescuers if they get into danger as they cross from Morocco to Spain.

Her actions have made her a heroine to thousands of African immigrants trying travel to Europe."

EU Lacks Cohesive Strategy to Address ‘Migration Crisis’ (middle-east-online.com, link):

"With Europe braced for increased immigration and hateful far-right anti-immigration discourse becoming increasingly mainstream, many are calling on the European Union to take decisive action to tackle root causes, reports Mahmud el-Shafey."

" Anti-fraud office investigates EU asylum agency director (Politico, link):

"The executive director of the EU asylum agency is under investigation by the bloc’s anti-fraud office, OLAF, a document obtained by POLITICO shows.

It states that José Carreira is being investigated for alleged misconduct in procurement procedures, irregularities in management of human resources and possible breaches of data protection at the Malta-based European Asylum Support Office (EASO).

The two-page document was drafted by an investigator at OLAF. According to the text, the probe concerns “suspicions of misconduct by the executive director of EASO.” The investigation takes place “at least — but not exclusively — in the framework of the EU support in response to the refugee crisis in Greece.”

A spokesperson for EASO confirmed that the fraud office’s investigators had visited the agency on October 9 and again last week."

Council of Europe: Commissioner for Human Rights: Annual Activity Report 2017 (pdf):

"In the introduction to last year’s annual report, I claimed that 2016 would be remembered as a turning point for human rights protection in Europe. In a positive scenario, 2016 would be remembered as the year we hit bottom and began to bounce back. In a darker scenario, it would mark the beginning of the end of the post-war human rights system. Needless to say, there were few signs of an upturn in 2017

What more can be done to arrest the negative trend? How can we turn the tide? In circumstances of serious backsliding in certain countries and issue areas, the Council of Europe needs to reinforce its core “business” - rule of law and human rights monitoring and the provision of advice. It needs to demonstrate to member states the benefits and the added value of this work. While navigating an extremely challenging environment in the short and medium-term, we also need to think strategically. In my view, one key strategic priority should be children and youth. Otherwise, Europe in the near future may lack a critical mass of people with a willingness and ability to defend Europe’s acquis of human rights, tolerance, and transnational co-operation.

My concern stems from the fact that children and youth were among the hardest hit by the economic crisis in many countries. Child poverty and youth unemployment were among the most widespread side effects of austerity policies. If we do not address these ills more effectively, what can we expect of many in this generation in the future? What will Europe mean to them, if anything? Why should they care about European integration, solidarity, even democracy? We cannot continue to leave so many young people behind." (emphasis added)

And see: Transcript of oral presentation of the report: Annual activity report 2017 by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights (pdf)

A Question of Voluntary Return and Reintegration? (Migration Systems, link):

"With a global increase in the number of migrants and refugees, the issue of return migration has recently received greater attention. To date, return and reintegration policies have been shaped by increasing political emphasis on migration control, and tools such as readmission agreements. But these policies rarely target sustainable reintegration."


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

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