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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
26,11.17-29.11.17
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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
1. Greece

GREECE: Greek Asylum Service: data on asylum applications and decisions, Dublin transfers and relocations: June 2013-October 2017

Statistical data from the Greek Asylum Service covering the period 7 June 2013 to 31 October 2017, with information on asylum applications and decisions divided by age, gender, countries of origin, region (in Greece) of application; data from the Greek Dublin Unit covering the same period showing transfers of asylum-seekers to and from Greece under the Dublin system; and data from the Greek Asylum Service on relocations from Greece to other EU Member States under the EU's relocation scheme up to 19 November 2017.

GREECE: The Refugee Scandal on the Island of Lesbos (Spiegel Online, link):

"Those wishing to visit ground zero of European ignominy must simply drive up an olive tree-covered hill on the island of Lesbos until the high cement walls of Camp Moria come into view. "Welcome to prison," someone has spray-painted on the walls. The dreadful stench of urine and garbage greets visitors and the ground is covered with hundreds of plastic bags. It is raining, and filthy water has collected ankle-deep on the road. The migrants who come out of the camp are covered with thin plastic capes and many of them are wearing only flipflops on their feet as they walk through the soup. Children are crying as men jostle their way through the crowd.

Welcome to one of the most shameful sites in all of Europe. Camp Moria was originally built to handle 2,330 refugees. But currently it is home to 6,489."

Greece: As Winter Nears, Asylum Seekers Stuck in Tents on Islands (Human Rights Watch, link):

"The Greek government, with the support of EU member states, should act now to end Greece’s “containment policy,” 20 human rights and aid groups said today. The policy forces asylum seekers arriving on the Greek islands to remain in overcrowded, unsafe facilities, an urgent concern with winter approaching.

Conditions on the Greek islands have continued to deteriorate in the month since 19 nongovernmental groups wrote an open letter to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, calling on him to move asylum seekers to the mainland, where better conditions and services are available."

See also: Open The Islands - no more dead from the cold! Solidarity groups and organisations call for urgent action as winter is coming for refugees in Greece (Statewatch News Online, 16 October 2017)

2. EU/Libya/Africa

Europe’s Plan to Close Its Sea Borders Relies on Libya’s Coast Guard Doing Its Dirty Work, Abusing Migrants (The Intercept, link):

"In the last six months, with new support from European governments, the Libyan coast guard has substantially ramped up operations to intercept migrant boats in the international waters off their coast, where most shipwrecks take place. Confrontations with the European NGOs that work there have increased as well, with multiple organizations reporting warning shots and direct threats of violence from Libyan boats. The violence has led some organizations to stop their Mediterranean rescue operations.

The Libyan coast guard is a decentralized force often accused of working with local militias and smugglers and violating the rights of migrants. At the same time, it is a key player in Europe’s response to the refugee crisis."

EU and Italy put aside €285m to boost Libyan coast guard (EUobserver, link):

"Combined Italian and EU efforts to shore up the Libyan coast guard will cost €285 million over the next few years.

Speaking to MEPs in the civil liberty committee on Tuesday (28 November), Mario Morcone from the Italian interior ministry, said the figure covers expenses up until 2023.

"The project is going to cost €285 million, the whole thing," he said.

The plan is to create operational centres in Libya to "help search and rescue operations at sea" and to better coordinate fleets between the Libyan and Italian coastguard.

He also said a pilot project would be launched to set up border guard posts on land."

EU: Documents: Operation Sophia anti-migrant smuggling mission to host "crime information cell" pilot project

The EU's anti-migrant smuggling mission, Operation Sophia, is to host a "crime information cell" as part of a pilot project that will attempt to ensure any information gathered by the mission that is "relevant for crime prevention, investigation and prosecution, or more broadly border security is made available to the relevant Member State authorities and JHA agencies".

EU: Operation Sophia's world: Changes and challenges (pdf):

A briefing by the EU Institute of Security Studies: "Two and a half years after its creation, Operation Sophia is very different from what it was meant to be initially. The situation in Libya has not permitted the full implementation of the operation's planned mandate, which has changed as a consequence. But EU Member States have also displayed a degree of lassitude vis-a-vis the added-value of the operation and the unintended consequences it generated, in particular in relation to its growing humanitarian dimension. At a time when refugees in Libya are the victims of major human rights violations, what Operation Sophia is really about is still uncertain, and it is furthermore dependant on parameters that are beyond the EU's own reach."

SPAIN: Protest at the Libyan embassy in Madrid against the trade in African migrants

Hundreds of people protested in front of the Libyan embassy in Madrid this weekend to call for the freedom of the refugees and migrants that that have been turned into merchandise in the north African country. The demonstration was called by various organisations of African people, and people of African descent, under the slogan "we will stop the sale of our black brothers and sisters".

Migration think-tank: Europe is ‘obsessed’ with short-term solution (euractiv, link):

"Migration will dominate the fifth summit between Africa and the European Union, which will be held in Abidjan on 29 and 30 November. But Europeans keep dictating the agenda, due to lack of political unity in the African Union.(...)

Today Europe sees migration as a threat and Africa as an opportunity."

Libya human bondage risks overshadowing Africa-EU summit (EurActiv, link):

"African leaders are expected to warn Europeans that their way of outsourcing the migration crisis to Libya, in apparent disregard for human rights, risks opening old wounds in the heavy history of the two continents.

The leaders of the 28 EU countries and their counterparts from the 27 members of the African Union will meet in Abidjan, the capital of Côte d’Ivoire, on 29-30 November. (...)

[Federica] Mogherini [EU head of foreign affairs and security policy] was questioned about the EU’s strategy of outsourcing the migration crisis to foreign countries such as Libya and Turkey, which received billions to prevent Syrian refugees from crossing to Greece.

She said the situation was different on two counts: first, the migrants stranded in Libya were not legitimate asylum seekers like those fleeing the war in Syria. And second, different international bodies were in charge."

UN working to address slavery, abuses against African migrants and refugees, Security Council told (UN News Centre, link):

"28 November 2017 – The United Nations is stepping up its work to stop the grave abuses perpetrated against refugees and migrants along the Central Mediterranean routes, including alleged slave trade in Libya, two UN agency chiefs told the Security Council Tuesday.

The meeting was held at UN Headquarters in New York in response to growing international concerns about risks facing migrants and refugees, which were illustrated by recent news reports and videos showing African migrants in Libya allegedly being sold as slaves.

“This is an enormous human tragedy and we can stop it,” said William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), via video link from Geneva, underscoring the need to break the smugglers’ business model."

3. EU-Turkey

EU commissioner calls on Turkey to ‘move closer to Brussels and its values’ (Hurriyet, link):

"‘Migration deal successful despite tensions’

Despite political strains between Turkey and a number of EU member states, the migration deal between Ankara and Brussels continues to work, with Turkey and the EU together succeeding in substantially reducing irregular and dangerous arrivals, Avramopoulos stated.

From 10,000 crossings in a single day in October 2015, daily crossings from Turkey have dramatically fallen to an average of 84 per day today, while the number of deaths in the Aegean has fallen from 1,150 in the year before the migration deal to 113 in the year that followed, he noted.

Over 11.400 persons have been resettled to the EU from Turkey so far, as part of the agreement, Avramopoulos said.

“On Sept. 27 I called on EU Member States to resettle a further 50,000 persons from Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and countries along the Central Mediterranean route over the next two years. I have already received more than 38,000 pledges from 18 countries and I know that more will follow soon,” he stated.

Since March 21, 2016, 2,032 migrants have been returned from Greece to Turkey under the migration agreement and the Greece-Turkey bilateral protocol, including 228 people from Syria, he added."

Turkish PM warns EU over refugee deal ahead of Syrian peace talks (Guardian, link)

"Binali Yildirim suggests Turkey could withdraw from EU agreement if Kurdish forces are given a role in talks.

Turkey’s prime minister has warned that the country has the power to allow millions of refugees to resume their journeys to western Europe if the US and EU-backed Kurdish forces fighting in Syria are given a role in peace talks."

4. Deaths

Migrant crisis: Boat sinks off Libya, killing at least 31 (BBC News, link):

"At least 31 migrants have died after their boat capsized off the coast of Libya on Saturday.

They had been trying to cross the Mediterranean along with another boat. Children were among the dead.

Some 60 people were rescued from the water and 140 picked up from the second boat."

Algerian man dies after Denmark deportation flight struggle (The Local, link):

"Denmark’s Independent Police Complaints Authority is to investigate an incident in which an Algerian citizen lost consciousness during a struggle with police on board an aircraft set to deport him from the country. The man died in hospital two days later.

The man was escorted to Copenhagen Airport by police on Monday as part of a scheduled forced deportation.

He lost consciousness on board the aircraft and was then taken to hospital, but died on Wednesday, the Independent Police Complaints Authority (Den Uafhængige Politiklagemyndighed, DUP) confirmed to news agency Ritzau.

A witness who was on board the aircraft told tabloid newspaper Ekstra Bladet that the incident seemed "violent"."

5. Legal and policy developments

EU: Reception conditions for asylum applicants: Council agrees mandate for negotiations (press release, pdf):

"On 29 November 2017, the Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) endorsed, on behalf of the Council, a mandate for negotiations on a directive laying down standards for the reception of applicants for international protection. On the basis of this mandate, the presidency will start negotiations with the European Parliament."

Points highlighted: reception conditions, limiting "secondary movements", need for Member States to draw up contingency plans in cases of "disproportionate number of applicants".

FRANCE: A government-sponsored bill for the mass detention of asylum-seekers

Wednesday, 29 November, the Commission of Laws of the National Assembly will examine a law proposed by the group Les Constructifs "permitting the correct application of the European asylum system". Its purpose: to allow the mass detention of people seeking asylum under the 'Dublin' procedure, a practice censured by the Court of Cassation.

ECJ-HUNGARY: Tell me what you see and I’ll tell you if you’re gay: Analysing the Advocate General’s Opinion in Case C-473/16, F v Bevándorlási és Állampolgársági Hivatal (EU Immigration and Asylum Law and Policy, link):

"Hungary has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons for quite a while. From legislation targeting ‘foreign-operating universities’ to border walls to keep refugees from entering Hungarian territory, the populist right-wing government of Viktor Orban has been sparking outrage in many sectors of Hungarian society, and the European institutions. The most recent reason for alarm again relates to migration and refugees, an area of widespread criticism of Hungarian authorities. Building on extremely hostile policies towards refugees that have been admonished by both the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), Hungarian authorities now intend to resort to highly dubious means to assess the applications of individuals claiming asylum on grounds related to their sexual orientation. It was already public knowledge that this category of claimants was subjected to poor treatment by the Hungarian authorities, but recent events suggest that the authorities have reached a new low."

FRANCE-EU: The French suite. The effect of Al Chodor on the detention of asylum seekers for the purpose of a Dublin transfer (European Database of Asylum Law, link):

"In its decision from 27 September 2017 [Pourvoi n 17-15.160, arrêt n° 1130], the first civil chamber of the Cassation Court in France examines and applies the conclusions of the case of Al Chodor given by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on 15 March 2017...

Conclusion

With the backing of the highest administrative court, the French prefectures continue to place asylum applicants subject to a Dublin transfer decision in detention; in other words, they continue to deprive applicants from their fundamental right to liberty and are in violation of EU law. Furthermore, the widespread practice has been reinforced and applicants subject to a Dublin transfer can be detained at the moment of their registration at the prefecture. One may question what sort of provisions will be laid out in the draft law on asylum and immigration currently being prepared. Will they draw all of the conclusions from the Al Chodor decision in providing objective and precise criteria on the risk of absconding in order for detention to be the exception? Or will the provisions circumvent the European case law and provide for cosmetic and malleable criteria allowing prefectures to maintain a systematic detention of individuals and allow administrative judges to validate the measures? A reading of the proposed law allowing for a correct application of the European asylum regime lodged at the National Assembly on 24 October 2017 (presented by Jean-Luc Warsmann and 18 other republican deputies) does not bode well since the proposal specifically aims to render meaningless the decisions, analysed here, by the CJEU and Court of Cassation."

6. Other news

EU: Help is no crime: people share their stories of being accused, intimidated and punished for helping migrants (PICUM, link):

"Individuals and members of organisations who provide humanitarian assistance and help to undocumented migrants frequently face intimidation, accusations and punishments across Europe, due to policies which prohibit the ‘facilitation of irregular migration’.

These stories of migrant supporters aim to show what these policies mean in practice for civil society actors as well as for migrants and the impact of criminalising solidarity."

And see: Humanitarianism: the unacceptable face of solidarity (IRR, link): "Drawing on the work of advocacy organisations across Europe, it provides a sample of twenty-six case studies involving prosecutions of 45 individual humanitarian actors under anti-smuggling or immigration laws since September 2015."

UK: The hostile environment: woman reporting rape to police arrested on immigration charges

"A woman who reported being kidnapped and raped over a six month period to the police was arrested as she sought care, Politics.co.uk can reveal.

The shocking case reveals how far Theresa May's 'hostile environment' towards immigrants has gone and raises serious questions about whether immigration enforcement practices are now discouraging the victims of crimes from reporting them to the police."

GERMANY: Small town mayor stabbed at kebab shop over pro-refugee stance (The Local, link):

" German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday condemned a near fatal knife attack against a town mayor, apparently motivated by the local leader's pro-refugee stance and which left him with a six-inch neck wound.

Andreas Hollstein, 54, mayor of the western town of Altena, was stabbed Monday evening at a kebab shop by a man who had loudly criticised his liberal refugee policy.

Hollstein said that without two shop employees who rushed to help him, he would "probably not be here today"."

Refugee centers in Germany suffer near daily attacks (Deutsche Welle, link):

"Fresh data from Germany's Federal Criminal Police Agency (BKA) obtained by German daily Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung shows that there have been 211 attacks on refugee homes throughout Germany in the first nine months of the year, plus an additional 15 incidents up to October 23.

The figure is down from nearly 900 attacks in the first nine months of 2016, but still higher than in 2014, a year before Germany took in more than 1 million refugees, more than any other country in Europe."

UK: Immigration detainees face deportation due to legal aid bureaucracy (Law Gazette, link):

"Immigration detainees are being deported because administrative hurdles are deterring legal aid solicitors from taking up viable judicial review cases, an independent report commissioned by the Bar Council suggests.

Even though immigration detention is in scope for legal aid, the Injustice in Immigration Detention report, published today, says the UK legal landscape is failing detainees.

Beginning a judicial review claim is a 'financial gamble' for a legal aid lawyer, the report states. The solicitor must apply for a legal aid certificate for civil representation, which has a 'stringent' merits test. Preparing the legal aid application, alongside the application for JR permission, can take a long time. If permission is not granted, the Legal Aid Agency does not pay for any of the pre-permission work."

Inside Hungary's far-right movement (euronews, link):

"The radical narratives mounted by Hungary’s ruling Fidesz Party and far-right movements are gaining ground ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections. Euronews reporter Valerie Gauriat traveled to Hungary for the national Republic Day to hear from supporters and critics of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s hardline stance on immigration—and what it means to be Hungarian."

ROMANIA: Migrant crisis: New back door into Europe (Deutsche Welle, link):

"Almost every day dozens of people are being caught at the border trying to come to Romania and reach Western Europe. 76 human traffickers have been detained in Romania so far in 2017."

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