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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
1-2.2.17
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Keep in touch: Statewatch Observatory: Refugee crisis in the Med and inside the EU: Daily news (updated through the day), commentaries and official documents
Italy: Police instructed to target Nigerians

There's a charter plane to fill and interviews with Nigerian authorities have already been agreed

A telegram sent by Giovanni Pinto, the director of the Italian interior ministry's public security department's central directorate for immigration and border police on 26 January 2017 to all the questure [police headquarters] in Italy concerning the scheduling of a deportation flight and interviews with Nigerian authorities, explicitly instructs police services to target Nigerians. Its contents are troubling although they fall within the measures announced by the chief of police and the interior minister since December 2016, which called for new detention centres to be opened, for an intensification of activities to track down irregular migrants and to increase the number of deportations.

Greece: Interventions in a Crisis – Working with Refugees on Samos Island (Samos Chronicles, link): Long thoughtful piece by Chris Jones, Samos:

"Our work with refugees on Samos has been rooted in our common humanity and informed by mutual respect, solidarity and empathy. In Samos we have come to recognise that these human qualities are shaped by where you stand with the refugees. If you stand shoulder to shoulder as brothers and sisters it nearly always followed that relationships formed where people connected, despite massive differences in background and experience. Even 2015 when the average stay of the refugees on Samos was between 2 to 3 days it was astonishing to see so many friendships made between the refugees and the local activists who met them on the beaches and helped provide clothes and food. Even 2 years later many of these connections have endured....

We have come to expect nothing of value and benefit to the refugees coming from the top whether it be an NGO or governmental welfare agency. They are part of the problem and certainly not the solution, On the other hand we have seen the power and effectiveness of interventions which work with and alongside the refugees as people ‘just like ourselves’. But if it is be more compelling we must recognise that we must also shed light on these darkest of places. It is a huge challenge. But it is necessary if the barbarism of the system is to be halted."

Italy: Deaths at the Border. Control and Repression Replacing Reception (Migrantsciliy, link):

"“Four survivors from a ship packed with 193 people”. “The numbers of missing are imprecise, but in the hundreds.” “Eight bodies but a massacre feared”. By now we do not speak about the dead, but those who did “not survive”, making calculations by exclusion. It is increasingly difficult to know how many people continue to lose their lives at sea. Understanding how many victims our borders have claimed is simply too shameful. Since the beginning of 2017, 240 people have already died crossing the Canal of Sicily, and we are only half way through January.

And yet the journeys of death, violence and disappearance unfold before our eyes every day, the stories of those struck down by a rationality of closure and inhumanity of countries like ours where wealth is gathered and consumed but rarely produced, and so our own economic interests have to be defended by force."

Are You Syrious (1.2.17, link)

Registrations & Relocations

"76 refugees were registered on the Aegean Islands today, including 17 on Samos and 59 on other islands.

493 refugees were relocated between the 24th and the 31th of January, including 237 to Germany and 127 to Norway, bringing the total to 8,412. These brings the numbers for January above 1,000. However, we remain far from the target of relocating 2,000 people every month from Greece and 1,000 people from Italy in order to end relocation by the end of September 2017."

France: Refugees are coming back to Calais and being chased by police

"It its January report, Care4Calais says the clearance of the Calais camp has not addressed the underlying reasons why refugees arrive in Northern France and says around 10–12 people arrive every day.

Care4Calais also says that there is no infrastructure to host them and police is focused on clearing the town of refugees, often taking them directly to detention centres, where they are provided with minimal food, blankets and toiletries and have little or no access to interpreters or information.

Le Monde reports that associations feel “betrayed” by the government..."

Greece: Hunger strike on Samos (News That Moves, link):

"From ERT and Samos Times: A group of refugees and migrants have been on a hunger strike on the island of Samos, demanding better living conditions and faster decisions on asylum claims.

A demonstration at the island’s main refugee facility included a large “NO FOOD” display made of the food containers handed out by authorities and aid groups."

Germany’s new ‘paid-to-leave program’ (News That Moves, link):

"Germany has launched an additional national return program, called StarthilfePlus.

StarthilfePlus works in cooperation with the Reintegration and Emigration Program for Asylum-Seekers in Germany (REAG) – Government Assisted Repatriation Program (GARP) since 2015, which provides returnees with travel and reintegration assistance.

The StarthilfePlus program, effective as of February 1st, 2017, assists asylum seekers willing to be voluntarily sent back to their countries of origin."

Serbia: 7000 asylum seekers estimated in the country (euractiv, link):

"After the closing of the Balkan route about a year ago, by which migrants and refugees mainly from the Middle East had arrived in the EU, there are some 7,000 in Serbia at the moment."

Italy sets up €200 million fund to help African countries stop migrants leaving (The Local.it, link):

" Italy on Wednesday pledged €200 million ($215 million) in funds to several African countries as it seeks to slash the number of migrants risking their lives in the Mediterranean to reach Europe.

Unlike previous European financing pledges, which have aimed to tackle the root causes of migration, the fund seeks to boost efforts by African security forces to stop people from leaving."

France: Crimes off solidarity

As the fight against "irregular" migration is intensifying and people acting in solidarity are increasingly targeted, the French association GISTI has updated its observatory on this issue which it had started in 2009. Comprehensive background information is available alongside news and mobilisations around this issue, and the observatory is continuously updated.

The homepage states why this is important:

"With the establishment of the state of emergency, and within the context of the so-called "migration crisis", we are witnessing an increase in prosecutions aiming to prevent the expression of solidarity towards migrants, refugees, Roma people, sans-papiers… The panoply of offences which are used as pretexts against people who have expressed their solidarity towards foreign people to intimidate and sometimes prosecute or convict them, has expanded.

A new mobilisation by associations is necessary."

EU: Malta Summit, 3 February 2017: Background Note (pdf):

"Since the start of the migration crisis the EU has managed to reduce significantly the number of irregular migrants entering Europe. Preliminary data from Frontex indicate a 72% decrease in detections in 2016 across the whole of the EU compared to 2015. By far the largest share of this reduction was recorded along the Eastern Mediterranean route, following the EU decision to fully apply the Schengen Border Code (end the wave-through approach) and the EU - Turkey Statement."

EU: Malta Summit on external aspect of migration

The Maltese Council Presidency is hosting a Summit of the heads of all EU Member States on 3 February to discuss external aspects of migration. As a follow up to a " Coreper breakfast (19 January)" the Presidency drew up a Note summarising possible initiatives: Malta Summit - External aspects of migration (pdf). The Draft Council Conclusions (pdf) do not take up most of the points raised but the Note shows what is under the table for future consideration.

MALTA SUMMIT: Editorial: Disintegrating the integrated (Times of Malta, link):

"Times of Malta, The Malta Independent and MaltaToday have joined forces to call on the Maltese government to review Malta’s arbitrary system of ‘temporary humanitarian protection’ and to regularise the position of detained migrants whose looming ejection from the island appears to be guided by opportunistic politics rather than reasoned policy.

Malta has to accept a reality of ‘non-returnable’ migrants who have been subject to return procedures but who cannot be returned for legal or logistical reasons, due to no fault of their own."

80% of asylum seekers living in poverty - Research shines light on risk of poverty often overlooked by official figures (Times of Malta, link):

"A staggering 80 per cent of asylum seekers surveyed by the Jesuit Refugee Service and Aditus Foundation are currently living at risk of poverty, more than five times the rate in the general population.

A new study, which will be launched today, also found that asylum seekers’ households earn €200 less a month on average than the €680 respondents said they would need to cover their most basic needs.

Asylum seekers who have been in Malta for a longer period of time are no less likely than new arrivals to be at risk of poverty."

EXCLUSIVE: EU migrant policy in Africa built on incorrect Niger data (IRIN, link):

"The European Union has been touting a faulty figure for migration reduction through key transit country Niger as it looks to expand a policy of giving more development aid to African nations if they crack down on people smuggling and migrants, IRIN can exclusively reveal.

When the International Organization for Migration released figures in early December showing a dramatic drop in the numbers of migrants transiting through northern Niger to reach Europe the previous month, EU officials seized on them as evidence that its strategy of partnering with African countries to curb irregular migration was working.

On the back of EU funding specifically for the purpose, IOM has been monitoring the movements of migrants through Niger since February. Between then and the end of November 2016, the agency recorded more than 417,000 migrants transiting through northern Niger en route to Algeria and Libya, with movement peaking during the summer months...."

Council of Europe: High time for states to invest in alternatives to migrant detention (link)

"The use of migrant detention across Europe, whether for the purpose of stopping asylum seekers and other migrants entering a country or for removing them, has long been a serious human rights concern. I have repeatedly spoken out against the pan-European trend of criminalisation of asylum seekers and migrants, of which detention is a key part. Detention is a far-reaching interference with migrants’ right to liberty. Experts have confirmed its very harmful effects on the mental health of migrants, especially children, who often experience detention as shocking, and even traumatising."

EU flirts with hypocrisy in criticising Trump's refugee ban (euobserver, link):

"the fact that the world's richest nations are unwilling to properly care for the thousands stranded in Greece and on its islands is a disgrace. The task has largely been delegated to volunteers, NGOs and international aid organisations.

With populist parties gaining ground in the Netherlands, France and Germany, the anti-immigrant discourse has also gone mainstream. Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte last week told Muslims to "act normal, or go away".

France's conservative presidential contender Francois Fillon has promised to erect national borders and German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere wants zones outside Europe to screen applicants before arrival.

De Maiziere's proposal is gaining traction.

The plan is to offshore the problem to war-torn Libya. The job is already under way in a handful of other African states and Afghanistan. This is the EU's invisible wall."

EU: New detention centres part of €7 million EU migration project in Belarus

An EU-funded project in Belarus is providing €7 million to establish "a fully-fledged irregular migration management strategy," including the construction of a series of 'Migrants' Accommodation Centres' throughout a country perhaps best-known for being Europe's last remaining dictatorship.

Greece: Moria, Lesvos: Alarm raised over third migrant death in six days (ekathimerini.com, link):

"The death Monday of a third migrant within a week at the Moria camp on Lesvos has increased concerns about the living conditions of thousands of people who continue to live in tents, and cast fresh doubts over a pledge by the Migration Ministry in early January to take the necessary precautions as heavy snowfall and subzero temperatures engulfed the country....

However, Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas said Monday....a plan to move people to hotels while the so-called hot spots received a makeover fell through after local authorities and hoteliers disagreed.

The man who died Monday in his tent was a Pakistani national, aged between 18 and 20. Authorities have ruled out foul play while doctors blamed carbon monoxide poisoning."

Greece to probe migrant deaths at island camp (euobserver, link):

"Greek migration minister Yannis Mouzalas has ordered an investigation into a series of deaths at the Moria asylum camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. Aid agencies have long complained about the poor conditions at the camps. A Pakistani man died on Monday from carbon monoxide poisoning from a heater in his tent. An Egyptian and a Syrian who shared a tent died last week."

EU: Foreign fighters' helpers excluded from refugee status: the ECJ clarifies the law (EU Law Analysis, link) by Professor Steve Peers:

"What if a person claiming to be a refugee is an alleged terrorist, or at least giving assistance to alleged terrorists? Can they still claim to be a refugee – and if not, how should we define ‘terrorism’ for the purposes of rejecting their claim to be one? Today’s judgment of the EU Court of Justice in the Lounani case usefully clarifies some aspects of this controversial and legally complex issue, but inevitably leaves some difficult questions open. "

See: An application for asylum can be rejected if the asylum seeker has participated in the activities of a terrorist network - It is not necessary that the asylum seeker personally committed terrorist acts, or instigated such acts, or participated in their commission (Press release,pdf) and Judgment (pdf)

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