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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
30.10-3.11.17
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EU: Migrant smuggling and trafficking as crimes against humanity: growing calls for crimes to be heard before International Criminal Court

A recent editorial in Der Spiegel by two legal academics supports the call recently made by a UN Special Rapporteur for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to "consider investigation into atrocity crimes against refugees and migrants where there are reasonable grounds that such crimes have taken place and the jurisdictional requirements of the court have been met." This approach is also being pursued by the EU's military mission in the Mediterranean, Operation Sophia, which has sought contacts with the ICC and has produced a "non-paper" on the topic that was recently obtainedby Statewatch.

EU-AFRICA: European Parliament chief in Tunisia: Africa needs a 'Marshall Plan' to halt migration

European Parliament president Antonio Tajani has recently been in Tunisia, where he called for the EU to finance a 'Marshall Plan' that would back development in Africa in order to prevent "thousands, and soon millions of people" travelling from and towards North Africa and eventually to Europe.

SAHEL: EU-backed 'G5 Sahel' security mission starts operations as Europeans hope to stem migration flows

A multinational counter-terrorism force in the Sahel region of Africa is receiving significant financial backing from the EU and recently began operations in an attempt to "counter escalating Islamist insurgencies," with a view to also deal with irregular migration and human trafficking in the region.

GREECE: Refugees protest in Greece for family reunification in Germany (Deutsche Welle, link):

"Several dozen migrants protested in front of the parliament building in Athens on Wednesday, demanding to be reunited with family members in other EU countries after being stranded in Greece.

"Reunite our families," read one sign held by the group of mainly Syrians, who threatened to engage in a hunger strike.

Dalal Rashou, a 32-year-old Syrian, said she has five children, including one in Germany with her husband. "I have not seen my husband, my child, for more than one year and nine months," she said. "I miss him and every day I am here in Greece I cry. I don't want to stay here, I want to go to my husband," she said."

See: Reunite us with our families now! (Hunger Strike, link): " We are more than 4,000 refugees awaiting our transfer to Germany – most of which are families who are waiting already more than 18 months in Greece under deplorable conditions. We are women, men and mostly children separated from one or both of our parents, our husbands, our wives."

GREECE: Concern over spike of 200 percent in migrant arrivals (Ekatimerini, link):

"Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas on Wednesday conceded that the migration problem is becoming more difficult to manage as the number of people arriving on the shores of Greek islands from Turkey since August is up 200 percent compared to the same period last year.

Describing the spike as a “special phase” in the migration problem, Mouzalas added that while the average arrival rate in July was 87 people per day, it shot up to 156 per day in August, while in the months of September and October it rose even further, to 214 per day.

With around 4,000 people arriving on the islands in October alone, Mouzalas described the situation at the congested camps on Lesvos as “very bad” and on Chios as “bad.”

(...)

He attributed the low number of returns to Turkey – 1,360 people since the deal was activated – to the way asylum applications are examined in Greece."

According to UNHCR figures, 616 refugees arrived in Lesvos between 25 and 31 October.

The EU-Turkey deal returned just 4% of migrants who undertook the dangerous journey to Greece (Quartz, link):

"A controversial deal allowing the EU to ship migrants back to Turkey has stemmed the flow of people reaching Europe by sea. But it has done very little to actually return them to Turkey.

The EU-Turkey deal was signed in March 2016; a month later, arrivals to Greece dropped by a staggering 90%. Though the flow of migrants decreased, the deal didn’t stop irregular migration completely. From April 2016 till now, 45,972 migrants crossed over to Greece.

Since the deal was implemented, just 1,896 migrants (pdf) have been returned to Turkey, according to a recent report by EU. In other words, just 4% of migrants who crossed over to Greece since the deal was signed have been returned."

French authorities illegally extend controls at Schengen's interior borders, associations file a claim before the State Council

Press release - 31 October 2017: Joint action

"On 26 October 2017, Anafé, La Cimade and Gisti asked the judge for emergency interim procedures [juge des référés] of the State Council [Conseil d'Etat] to urgently suspend the authorities' decision to extend the controls at the internal borders until 30 April 2018.

The reintroduction of controls at the internal borders of the Schengen area, enacted by France since 13 November 2015, and then repeatedly extended due to the state of emergency, was meant to end on 31 October. However, the French authorities informed the European Union (EU) in a note send on the past 3 October that they were counting on extending these systematic border checks -once again- by invoking as its only reason the "risk of a terrorist attack, which remains high in French territory".

While the state of emergency is meant to end on Wednesday 1 November, this decision, which contradicts the rules of the Schengen area which limit the possibility of conducting systematic checks at its internal borders to two years, seriously undermines the rights of people in a regime of freedom of movement."

CPT returns to Hungary to assess the situation of foreign nationals detained under aliens legislation (Council of Europe, link):

"A delegation of the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) carried out an ad hoc visit to Hungary from 20 to 26 October 2017.

The main objective of the visit was to examine the treatment and conditions of detention of foreign nationals detained under aliens legislation. To this end, the CPT’s delegation visited the two transit zones at Röszke and Tompa situated at the border with Serbia, as well as the Csongrád County Border Police Division in Szeged (Moscow street) and the police detention facility at the border post at Röszke. On the Serbian side of the border, the delegation also held interviews with foreign nationals who had recently been escorted by border police officers to the other side of the Hungarian border fence."

From the centre of the Mediterranean: “Freedom of movement as a human right” (Political Critique, link):

"A conversation with Leoluca Orlando, mayor of Palermo.

(...)

Comprising almost 700,000 inhabitants within a metropolitan area that exceeds one million, the capital of Sicily is a place of many contradictions. A distillation of the contradictions of a large island in the centre of the Mediterranean, with all the positive and negative values that this has historically led to and which are even more evident today.

An example of this are the specifically Sicilian problems regarding the relationship between capitalist development and underdevelopment, within an Italian unitary state that has only 150 years of history. With these themes in mind we began a conversation with Leoluca Orlando (mayor of the city preparing to run for new elections this weekend) about the heavy conditioning that the mafia phenomenon has exerted and the influence that it, in some respects, continues to have on Sicilian society and urban life in Palermo."

Greece: Samos Chronicles: Responding to Hysteria (link):

"Recently on Samos we have been experiencing one of those periodic spasms of anti-refugee sentiment. These spasms feel orchestrated and even if not coordinated involve a diverse range of actors. This particular spasm has been sparked by both the high number of new arrivals especially in September and the lack of any preparation to meet the autumn weather.

All the refugee authorities use these moments to demand additional resources and powers; local business interests demand VAT reductions and other economic interventions because as ‘we all know’ the refugees have been devastating for tourism, the Mayor calls for meetings with government ministers and on it goes.
And at the same time beyond Samos, we see the head of UNCHR warning of the calamity unfolding on the frontier islands as winter approaches as well as other reports highlighting the agony of the refugees on the islands. Add to this mix, Samos SOS, an anti-refugee group which has been intermittently active for many years and which relishes moments such as these as a means of mobilizing support."


Europe’s quiet offensive against people helping refugees (euractiv, link):

"Three years ago today (31 October), EU pressure on Italy forced the end of one the EU’s most successful humanitarian mission, ‘Mare Nostrum’, a search-and-rescue operation that in just one year brought 130,000 refugees safely to Europe’s shores. Ben Hayes and Frank Barat look back on three years since the end of Operation Mare Nostrum."

Greek PM under fire over migrants (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his migration minister came under a hail of fire Monday from a radical faction within SYRIZA over the plight of the thousands of refugees and migrants stranded in Greece.(...)

But instead, the government and Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas were slammed by members of the political secretariat that represent the Group of 53 faction – seen as a custodian of party purity – within SYRIZA, over the consistent violation of migrants and refugees’ human rights.

More specifically, they blamed the leftist-led coalition government and Mouzalas for delays in providing migrants and refugees with appropriate accommodation as winter approaches."

How Europe exported its refugee crisis to north Africa (The Guardian, link):

"Something happened to the deadly migrant trail into Europe in 2017. It dried up. Not completely, but palpably. In the high summer, peak time for traffic across the Mediterranean, numbers fell by as much as 70%.

This was no random occurrence. Even before the mass arrival of more than a million migrants and refugees into Europe in 2015, European policymakers had been desperately seeking solutions that would not just deal with those already here, but prevent more from coming.

From Berlin to Brussels it is clear: there cannot be an open-ended invitation to the miserable millions of Europe’s southern and eastern periphery.

Instead, European leaders have sought to export the problem whence it came: principally north Africa."

See: Libyan path to Europe turns into dead end for desperate migrants (The Guardian, link)

Ending restrictions on family reunification: good for refugees, good for host societies (Council of Europe, link):

"Many refugees have to leave family members behind when they flee their homes. This adds more hardship to the trauma of exile. Once they have found safety in Europe, being reunited with their family members is often the first priority of refugees. It takes little imagination to realise how horrible it is for them to be deprived of this possibility. Unfortunately, thousands of refugees and persons with other forms of international protection status in Europe face long-term separation from their spouses, children and other loved ones. This is due to increasingly tough laws and policies restricting family reunification, which are often incompatible with the letter or spirit of human rights standards and need to be addressed urgently."

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