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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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December 2018

Council of Europe: Special Representative on migration and refugees supports UN Global Compact at conference in Morocco (link):

"The Council of Europe, with its system for human rights protection, is ready to engage in the implementation of the Global Compact. The initiatives undertaken in the Council of Europe Action Plan on Protecting Refugee and Migrant Children represent some of the most ambitious and successful actions of our organisation in the migration field. In particular they can offer a valuable contribution to our member states, but also to other regions and the international community as a whole seeking to secure the practical implementation of the laudable objectives of the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.(...)

Read: Statement in full (link)

Marrakesh UN forum adopts migration pact despite withdrawals (euractiv, link):

"A United Nations conference adopted a migration pact in front of leaders and representatives from over 160 countries in Morocco on Monday (10 December), despite a string of withdrawals, including several EU countries, driven by anti-immigrant populism.

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration — finalised at the UN in July after 18 months of talks — was formally approved with the bang of a gavel in Marrakesh at the start of a two-day conference.

But the United States and at least 16 other countries either opted out or expressed concerns, with some claiming the pact infringes national sovereignty."

Why the hysterical reaction to the UN migration and refugee compacts matters (euractiv, link):

"Right-wing leaders are guilty of an hysterical reaction to the UN migration compact, writes Udo Bullman MEP."

Italian priests vow to open church doors to evictees from immigration centres (Guardian, link): ‘Salvini decree’ threatens to make thousands not eligible for refugee status homeless."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (3-10.12.18)
UK: Stansted 15: Activists who stopped deportation flight found guilty of 'endangering' airport (The Independent, link):

"A group of activists who stopped a deportation flight leaving Stansted Airport have been convicted of disrupting flights and “endangering an aerodrome”.

The defendants, who have become known as the Stansted 15, said they were “guilty of nothing more than intervening to prevent harm”.

But a judge at Chelmsford Crown Court had told the jury that their intentions were not a defence."

See: The Home Office is guilty of harm, not us: Stansted 15 respond to guilty verdict (End Deportations, link)

The rise of hipster colonialism (Al Jazeera, link) by Nanjala Nyabola:

"Last week, Germany's Africa Commissioner Gunter Nooke said that European countries should be allowed to lease land and to build and run cities in Africa as a means of stemming what he views as the unchecked expansion of migration from Africa to Europe. For Nooke, allowing the "free development" of these areas would stimulate African economies and create "growth and prosperity" and therefore, reduce the attractiveness of Europe as a destination for migration.

...The easiest way to get to the heart of what's wrong with this proposal is to go back to basics - what is colonialism and why is it bad? The dictionary defines colonialism as "a policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically". Ultimately, it's about exploiting a power differential in order to reorganise one society for the economic and social benefit of another: saying that one society's economic and social imperatives are more important than the other's.

So, Nooke's proposal is fundamentally hipster colonialism - attempting to reclaim colonialism by couching it in neoliberal trends or ideology while advocating for a return to an essentially exploitative system of social and economic organisation."

AFRICA: Appeal by African civil society organisations to their states: ‘’Let us move in our continent’’ (Statewatch translation, pdf):

"This is the heartfelt cry that we, organisations of African civil society, wish to raise at the margins of the week on migration in Marrakech that will witness a gathering of states, international organisations and civil society organisations from 4 to 11 December 2018. After the difficulties which have obstructed the acquisition of visas for Morocco for numerous African civil society organisations wishing to participate in this migration week, we cannot keep silent about the discrimination that Africans continue to suffer affecting their right to mobility in their own continent.(....)

EU to process "confidential security information" with Libyan Coast Guard (link)

"The EU Border Agency has massively strengthened its surveillance capabilities. To make better use of this information, it will now be passed to the Libyan Coast Guard. This is legally impossible, now Frontex is pressing for the relevant regulations to be renewed. The navy in Libya, however, is using a Gmail address."

Host migrants or pay, France and Germany propose (euractiv, link):

"European Union governments that refuse to host refugees could instead pay to be excused from the bloc’s system of sharing out migrants, France and Germany proposed on Thursday (6 December) as they sought to end a long-running EU feud over migration.

The move reflects impatience with progress on reforming EU asylum rules ahead of EU parliament elections in May, diplomats said."

Syrian aid worker who swam refugees to safety freed from Greek jail (Guardian, link):

"Sarah Mardini had been held since August on people-smuggling charges criticised by rights groups.

After 107 days of incarceration, Sarah Mardini – the Syrian human rights worker who saved 18 refugees in 2015 by swimming their waterlogged dinghy to the shores of Lesbos with her Olympian sister – has been freed from Greece’s toughest jail.

The 23-year-old was released late on Wednesday from the high-security Koryallos prison in Athens, where she was being held in pre-trial detention on charges of people-smuggling.

She was allowed to walk free after her lawyers posted €5,000 (£4,450) in bail."

Greece, EU: Move Asylum Seekers to Safety: End Containment Policy, Organize Transfers Now (HRW, link):

"The Greek government and its European Union partners should urgently ensure that all asylum seekers on the Aegean islands are transferred to suitable accommodation on the mainland or relocated to other EU countries as winter approaches, 20 human rights and other organizations said today."

Statewatch comment: The official Greek Ministry figures shows that as of 5 December there are 15,790 refugees on the Greek islands with 7,825 on Lesvos, 4,182 on Samos and 1,476 on Kos,.

UK: Country returns guide: Guidance on returning immigration offenders to their country of origin (gov.uk, link):

"Home Office guidance on the documents required and processes for returning immigration offenders to their country of origin."

EU: Accountability of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency: Recent developments, legal standards and existing mechanisms (Refugee Law Initiative, link to pdf):

"The paper assesses the political, administrative, professional and social accountability of Frontex, including parliamentary oversight and the newly introduced individual complaints mechanism.

The final part of the paper focuses on legal accountability, a strong, yet highly complex, form of accountability. There, we introduce the concept of systemic accountability and investigate possible courses of legal action against Frontex. In sum, Frontex is subject to moderately increased scrutiny under its renewed founding Regulation and to various EU accountability mechanisms of general application. But several procedural and practical hurdles could render legal accountability difficult to achieve in practice."

Malta says Spain will accept migrants rescued by fishing vessel near Libya (El País, link)

"Spain will accept at least 11 of the 12 migrants rescued several weeks ago by the Spanish fishing vessel Nuestra Madre Loreto off the coast of Libya, according to Maltese authorities. The migrants were rescued by the fishermen while fleeing the Libyan Coast Guard on a rubber dinghy. Three of them scrambled on board while another eight threw themselves into the water and were picked up by the ship.”

See: The humanitarian fleet #United4Med calls on Europe to open its ports to the people rescued by the fishing boat Nuestra Madre de Loreto and condemns the negotiations between Spain and Libya (Statewatch News, 28 November 2018)

European Parliament: Humanitarian visas would reduce refugees’ death toll (link):

"Asylum-seekers should be able to request humanitarian visas at EU embassies and consulates abroad, allowing them to access Europe safely, say Civil Liberties MEPs.

With 37 votes to 10 and 3 abstentions, the Civil Liberties Committee agreed on Monday to ask the European Commission to table, by 31 March 2019, a legislative proposal establishing a European Humanitarian Visa. Holders would be allowed into Europe - only to the member state issuing the visa - for the sole purpose of submitting an application for international protection."

EU: Council of the European Union: Justice & Home Affairs Council 6-7 December 2018: Background Note (pdf) includes:

"On Thursday, ministers will aim to reach a partial general approach on the European Border and Coast Guard (EBCG) proposal and a general approach on the proposed regulation on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online. The Council is expected to approve a comprehensive and operational set of measures to fight against people smuggling networks."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (27.11-3.12.18)
European Council meeting, 13-14 December 2018: Draft guidelines for conclusions (CO EUR-PREP 50, LIMITE, 26 November 2018, pdf) covering multiannual financial framework (MFF), single market, migration, disinformation, external relations, racism and xenophobia, citizens' dialogues and strategic agenda:

"With a view to the forthcoming meeting of the European Council, delegations will find below the state of progress regarding the various topics on its agenda. Where possible, first indications are given on the elements the President of the European Council intends to include in the draft of the conclusions.

Member States are invited to provide their reactions, in order to help guide the preparations for the draft European Council conclusions which will be submitted in one week."

ITALY: Legal changes and climate of hatred threaten migrants’ rights in Italy, say UN experts

Italy’s proposed tightening of immigration rules will have a serious impact on migrants’ lives, and are of grave concern, UN human rights experts said today, urging the Government to reverse course.

BELGIUM: Crimes of solidarity: In Belgium, an increasingly brutal crackdown on migrant workers' collectives

"Muscular searches, preventive detention lasting for weeks, legal proceedings... For several months, the Belgian authorities have been particularly severe towards people who help migrants. A first correctional trial was held in early November in Brussels. Several Belgian citizens are accused of having participated in human smuggling after having aided and accommodated migrants, being charged and designated as smugglers. Faced with these increasingly repressive policies, a collective was created to highlight that 'solidarity is not a crime'."

EU-MED: Sea Rescue: A trade union statement (English, pdf) and Sauvetage en mer: Déclaration syndicale (French, pdf):

"We, the trade unions and seafarers from various European countries, hereby emphasise our attachment to the tradition and age-old ideals of our profession: rescue is a fundamental obligation, regardless of the person and his/her circumstances. We take pride in rescuing whoever is in distress in the vicinity of our ships. Rescue, being an obligation, is not part of migration policy and must not be fashioned by it.

We refuse any criminalisation of the masters and crews of ships acting so. On the contrary,we insist upon the fact that they are acting pursuant to the obligations of international Law.Those violating International Law are the governments which refuse to provide sufficient resources to rescue people."

Signatories: La CGT (France), Ver.di (Germany), BTB.FGTB (Belgium), FSC.CC.OO. (Spain), CGIL, UIL, CISL (Italy), CGTP.IN (Portugal), PCS, Nautilus International (Great Britain), International Federation of Shipmasters' Associations (IFSMA).

Refugee situation in Samos worse than Moria, says top EU official (ekathimerini.com, link):

"A high-ranking EU official warns that, despite some improvements, the situation in refugee camps in Moria, on the island of Lesbos, and, even more so, in Samos is still dire and Greece could face sanctions in 2019.

Vivi Michou, Director-General of the European Commission’s Migration and Home Affairs department since last March, tells Kathimerini that Greek authorities should accelerate preparations for the coming winter.".

Are You Syrious (30.11.18, link):

Denmark unveils plan for Nauru-style deportation center on Lindholm island

"As part of their yearly budget, the Danish government has unveiled a new plan, seemingly modelled on Australia’s offshore detention centers, to house asylum seekers in removal centers on the isolated island of Lindholm. The center will be established over the course of the next three years and will eventually house asylum seekers from the controversial Kærshovedgård deportation center.(...)

November 2018

Italy passes tough anti-migrant law (euobserver, link):

"Italy on Wednesday adopted an anti-migrant bill designed to more easily expel migrants and limit residency permits. Pushed through the lower parliament with 396 against 99, the bill spells the end for two-year "humanitarian protection" residency permits. Its adoption followed moves by Rome to also distance itself from ratifying (...)"

Spain ignores pleas to not send rescued migrants back to Libya (el pais, link)

"the 12 Africans who were plucked from the sea by a Spanish fishing boat are terrified of being returned."

Can 'voluntary colonialism' stop migration from Africa to Europe? (BBC News, link):

"A controversial proposal by a senior German official that foreign powers acquire land in Africa to curb migration has been rejected by the African Union, writes the BBC's Dickens Olewe. (...)

This will mean African countries leasing their land to a foreign body to "allow free development for 50 years", Mr Nooke said."

The humanitarian fleet #United4Med calls on Europe to open its ports to the people rescued by the fishing boat Nuestra Madre de Loreto and condemns the negotiations between Spain and Libya

Open Arms, Sea Watch and Mediterranea strongly condemn the negotiations between the countries of the European Union and Libya to return to the latter country the people rescued by the fishing boat Nuestra Madre de Loreto.

EP lawyers back EU plans for migrant centres in Africa (EUobserver, link):

"Lawyers working at the European Parliament on Tuesday (27 November) struggled to provide a detailed analysis of whether stalled EU plans to offload rescued migrants in north Africa were legal - but ultimately backed the controversial concept.

...EUobserver has obtained a full copy of the 10-page confidential report, which attempted to provide a legal analysis of stalled EU plans to set up so-called 'regional disembarkation platforms' in north Africa and controlled centres in Europe.

...It says "controlled centres and/or disembarkation platforms of a similar nature could be, in principle, lawfully established in the European Union territory."

It states disembarkation platforms "could lawfully be established outside of the European Union, in order to receive migrants rescued outside the territory of the Union's member states."

It also says EU law does not apply to migrants rescued at high sea, even with a boat flying an EU-member state flag.

"We can't consider a vessel flying a flag of a member state to be an extension of a member state," the lawyer told the MEPs."

Unprecedented Suspension of UN- Hungary Visit as Detention Experts are Denied Access (ECRE, link):

"A team of United Nations experts have been denied access by the Hungarian government to visit two border ‘transit zones’ where refugees and migrants, including children, are being detained. According the Working Group the visit had been planned in response to “a number of credible reports concerning the lack of safeguards against arbitrary detention in these facilities”.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had been invited by Hungary to conduct the visit from 12 to 16 November 2018 in order to follow up on its 2013 recommendations...

In an unprecedented step, they were obliged to suspend their visit after they were denied access to the Röszke and Tompa “transit zones” at the border with Serbia, on the basis that they would be unable to fulfil their mandate because under the terms of reference for these visits, governments are required to guarantee full freedom of inquiry, particularly with regards to “confidential and unsupervised contacts with persons deprived of their liberty”.

The investigators stated “There can be no doubt that holding migrants in these ‘transit zones’ constitutes deprivation of liberty in accordance with international law.”"

UK: Immigration detainee killed himself after self-harming, inquest hears (The Guardian, link):

"A Slovenian waiter killed himself while being held in an immigration detention centre, an inquest jury has found.

Branko Zdravkovic, 43, had self-harmed while in detention and had problems with alcohol, Bournemouth coroner’s court was told. The jury returned a verdict of suicide.

Although detention centre staff recognised his vulnerability and put him on self-harm watch, no report was sent to the Home Office flagging up suicidal intentions, as required under guidance known as rule 35 (2).

...The Home Office said he was facing administrative removal because he was not exercising his treaty rights to work in the UK. But his lawyers dispute that claim, saying that, while his schedule was not always predictable, he worked for many of his eight years in London as a waiter in establishments including the House of Lords, the Guildhall and the Gherkin."

EU states leave Spanish fishermen stuck with migrants (EUobserver, link):

"A Spanish fishing boat, the Nuestra Madre Loreto, has been stuck out at sea for six days after rescuing 12 African asylum seekers from a dinghy because no EU country has agreed to take them in, AFP reports. Italy and Malta told the boat's captain, Pascual Dura, to take the migrants back to Libya, but he said the migrants would "mutiny" if he tried. "We can't go anywhere," Dura said."

Joint UK-France centre opens in Calais to tackle criminality at border

Today the Home Secretary confirmed that a new UK-France Coordination and Information Centre has opened in Calais as part of the ongoing co-operation between the UK and France to tackle criminality at the border.

The centre will see Border Force working closely alongside Police Aux Frontieres as part of a 24/7 operation.

Greece sued over migrant death (ekathimerini.com, link);

"Nearly two years after an Egyptian migrant died at the Moria reception and identification center on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos, his family has filed a lawsuit against Greek authorities over his death, saying it was caused by the negligence of responsible officials.

Ahmed Elgamal, 20, was found dead on January 24, 2017, a few weeks after reaching Lesvos on a rubber dinghy with 12 more asylum seekers. His death was attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning from a makeshift heating device used to warm his freezing tent."

Greece: Open Doors Now Open!!! (SamosChronicle, link):

"On Thursday 22 November 2018 Open Doors opened its doors! It is proving to be all that we hoped for. It is not simply that the grocery store has almost sold out after just a few days but it has been the enthusiasm and happiness of the people coming to the shop which has brought us the greatest pleasure. Mohamed (left) from Gaza with Sofiane. Our first customer!

The fact that we supply quality foods at the cheapest price is clearly crucial. Refugees, local Greeks and the few tourists still around all remark on our (low) prices. It hardly needs to be said that for those with little money this is very important.

But it is not just a matter of prices. We stock food from across the Middle East and beyond which is not available on Samos."

EU: CEAS: State of play: International protection, Resettlement, Reception and Return

Four key measures of the proposed new Common European Asylum System (CEAS) which are currently going nowhere fast

EU: Meijers Committee: Comments on the proposal for a Directive on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals (recast), COM(2018) 634 final (pdf):

"The Meijers Committee observes that the recast proposal is not based on an evaluation of the existing Returns Directive or accompanied by an Impact Assessment. Despite the Commission’s earlier commitment to recast the directive only after a thorough implementation evaluation,1the present proposal is primarily based on “technical consultations with the Member States” (Explanatory Memorandum, p. 6). This makes it difficult to verify the proposal’s effectiveness, necessity and proportionality.

Despite the proposal widening the grounds for detention of illegally staying third-country nationals and tightening procedural guarantees, the Explanatory Memorandum does not meaningfully engage with human rights. It merely declares that the proposal respects fundamental rights."

and Comments on the draft for a new Regulation on a European Border and Coast Guard, (COM (2018) 631 final) and the amended proposal for a Regulation on a European Union Asylum Agency (COM(2018) 633 final) (pdf):

"The Meijers Committee would like to take the opportunity to comment on the drafts for a new Regulation on a European Border and Coast Guard, incorporating also the EUROSUR system (COM (2018) 631 final) and the amended proposal for a Regulation on a European Union Asylum Agency (COM(2018) 633 final)".

European Parliament: Libya: situation of migrants and rescue operations up for discussion (link);

"The situation of migrants in Libya and the conditions under which the Libyan coast guard is conducting rescue operations will be up for debate in the EP on Tuesday.

Civil Liberties Committee MEPs will try to get clarification from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the newly created Search and Rescue Observatory for the Mediterranean (SAROBMED) about Libya being assigned a Search and Rescue area in the Mediterranean. Being in charge of managing a SAR area implies that vessels carrying migrants and refugees can be ordered to disembark in Libya."

EU: Fundamental Rughts Agency: Periodic data collection on the migration situation in the EU (link)

Immigrants in Greece face winter crisis after public sector cuts (Guardian, link):

"UN envoy says EU policy during debt crisis had unintended consequences. Greece’s asylum system is hamstrung by public sector cuts imposed during the country’s EU bailouts, a UN envoy has said, as campaigners warned of a looming winter crisis for refugees and migrants."

Council of the EU: New Frontex Regulation: Presidency compromise proposals on cooperation with third countries (LIMITE document 14091/18, 13 November 2018, pdf):

"With a view to the JHA Counsellors meeting on 15 November 2018, delegations will find attached Presidency compromise suggestions in relation to Articles 72 to 79."

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


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