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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
13.11.17
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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
Institute for Race Relations (IRR): EU member states, in criminalising humanitarians, are feeding Europe’s far Right (Press release, link):

"The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) publishes today research showing that EU member states are using laws, aimed at traffickers and smugglers, to criminalise those acting out of humanitarian motives.

The rhetoric of EU politicians and its border force, Frontex, may be fuelling far-right extremism, IRR warns. It has written to the European Commission (EC) urging it to reassert support for humanitarian values."

See: Report (link) and Trafficking laws ‘target refugee aid workers in EU’ (Guardian, link)

Are You Syrious (12.11.17, link):

No, the Greek border will not be opened. Do not inspire false hope in refugees!

"Rumors are once again being circulated that the Greek border will be opened soon, prompting some to make the journey to be among those lucky enough to get through. The call is spread over the FB and people are invited to come to Thessaloniki on November 15th, and start walking toward the Macedonian border.

Unfortunately, as has been the case every other time that such rumors have spread, there is no truth to this wishful thinking. The border is closed and will remain closed in the foreseeable future, and a mass pilgrimage to the north will only result in injuries for the refugees. A previous attempt to march north ended in tragedy, with two refugees drowning and many more being hurt. Be an active voice against misinformation, save lives!"

Turkish Coastguard attacks refugee boat

"A video shot on November 10 shows the Turkish coastguard’s shocking disregard for human life as they harass and allegedly fire shots at a refugee boat. Once a Greek coastguard boat appeared, 17 refugees jumped off the boat and swam towards the Greeks. The remaining people who were unable to swim were returned to Turkey."

3rd meeting of the Central Mediterranean Contact Group, 13 November 2017 in Bern (link):

"The Central Mediterranean Contact Group facilitates the exchange of information among European and African countries affected by migration via the Central Mediterranean route. The Contact Group was established in Rome in March 2017 at the initiative of Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti. (...)

The Ministers of Interior of Algeria, Austria, the Chad, France, Germany, Italy, Libya, Malta, Niger, Slovenia, Switzerland, Tunisia and the Minister for Malians Abroad and African Integration, the European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship and the Representative of the European External Action Service, as well as the Minister of Interior of Estonia holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union gathered in Bern on 12 and 13 November 2017 in the framework of the third meeting of the Central Mediterranean Contact Group."

See: Declaration of Intent (pdf)

ECCHR: Rejections and Returns: The EU-Turkey Statement and its consequences for refugees in Greece, Turkey and Germany (pdf): Monday, 20 November, 19:00 – 21:00. ECCHR, Zossener Straße 55-58 (Aufgang D), 10961 Berlin:

"The EU-Turkey Statement from March 2016 stipulates that “[a]ll new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey into Greek islands as from 20 March 2016 will be returned to Turkey”. Under the adjusted procedures, people who arrive on the Greek islands are subjected to accelerated border procedures and an initial admissibility test on their asylum claim. The European Asylum Support Office (EASO), an EU agency, is in charge of “recommending” a decision to the competent Greek Asylum Service. Based on the dubious assumption that Turkey is a safe third country, many refugees currently face the risk of being deported back there."

EU: Returns and lack of readmission agreements highlight reluctance of African states to comply with EU demands

In a letter to Claude Moraes (pdf), Chair of the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE), the Director-General of of Migration and Home Affairs sets out the present situation of readmissions.

Despite the Commission's attempts to set up return and readmission agreements, especially in Africa: "Most third countries however, do not want to engage in negotiations on readmission agreements mainly due to internal political considerations, as such agreements can be a source of public hostility."

More “Safe” Third Country Concept: less safe world (ECRE, link)

"Either deliberately or by default the EU is moving towards a strategy of “externalisation” – and the proposed expansion in use of the safe third country concept is a central element.

The concept allows for the outsourcing of protection to other countries, those deemed safe. The legislative reform proposals put forward by the Commission use the concept in a problematic way; but the European Council goes further (or lower) and some Member States are pitching alarming ideas. ECRE has set out its concerns in a new Policy Note but it’s worth unpicking the details."

Spanish governing party refuses to abolish "hot returns" ruled illegal by ECHR

The plenary meeting of the Spanish Senate (the lower house of parliament) this Wednesday voted against a proposal that would ban the "hot returns" (immediate expulsions without procedure) at the Spanish borders that were recently condemned by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the N.D. and N.T. case.

ITALY: Statement: Now it's happening in the detention centre in Caltanisseta

"40 Tunisian citizens are freed every day from the Lampedusa detention centre: Italy puts an end to illegal detention.

Now it's happening in the detention centre of Caltanissetta "

Greece: Court curtails detention policy for Syrians on the islands (AIDA, link);

"The Administrative Court of Mytilene has delivered three rulings upholding Syrian asylum seekers’ objections against detention, against the backdrop of a policy to detain Syrians on the Eastern Aegean islands with a view to their return to Turkey."

Greece: Anger rises in Lesbos over crowded refugee camps (Guardian, link):

"Lesbos mayor accuses Greek government of allowing island to become a giant prison camp.

“We are utterly opposed to policies that are turning Lesbos and other border areas into concentration camps where all human dignity is denied,” said Spyros Galinos, the island’s mayor. “The government has failed to keep to its commitment to effectively deal with this problem and move people on.” (...)

Close to 6,000 people are being held at the island’s main camp in Moria, which was initially established as a temporary measure to house no more than 2,000."

Comment: See below: Currently there are 8,106 refugees in Lesvos (9.11.17, Greek Ministry)

Greece: The number of refugees on the Greek islands top 15,000 again (15, 005, 8.11.17):

Lesvos 8,017 (Capacity 2,330), Chios 2,336 (Capacity 894), Samos 2,341 (Capacity 700), Leros 997 (Capacity 880), Kos 1,182 (Capacity 772) Other islands 132.

See also: Commission: Med "hotspots", capacity and staff (23.10.17, pdf)

Sea-Watch: RESCUING NOT TALKING: Help us get the Sea-Watch 3 into operation (link)

Refugees Seek Media Platform to Change Bulgarian Minds (Balkan Insight, link)

"Faced with an upsurge of hostility from Bulgarian citizens, refugees and activists want to set up a media platform that will show people what they are really like."

Hungarians walk to overcome fears of Muslims (New Europe, link):

"A popular way to learn about Budapest’s Muslim community – amid a strident anti-immigrant campaign by the government – is to walk.

Budapest-based tour operator Setamuhely (Budapest Walkshop) runs 30 different walks taking visitors around the city’s architectural and cultural sites and the Jewish and Muslim communities.

“I can say that this walk, ‘Muslims who live among us’, is the most popular tour,” Anna Lenard, who runs the business,” told the Reuters news agency."

Greece: AITIMA: Press release: Administrative detention in Greece remains problematic (pdf):

"We would like to focus on two points that we consider as the most important:

1/ Lack of compliance by the Greek authorities with most of the European Committee¡¦s repeated recommendations

If one reads the Committee'¦s reports of the previous years, repeated findings will be noticed (with relevant recommendations, which are ignored), such as:

- detention of unaccompanied minors
- use of inappropriate facilities for the administrative detention of irregular migrants and asylum seekers
- significant deficiencies regarding the medical-pharmaceutical care of the administratively detainees

2/ Physical ill-treatment allegations by the administratively detained persons in the Detention Centers of the Aliens Police Directorate of Thessaloniki and in the Pre-Removal Aliens Detention Center of Tavros and their investigation by the Greek authorities."

Are You Syrious (6.11.17, link)

Italian-funded Libyan Coast Guard Causes 5 Deaths in the Mediterranean

"The Sea-Watch rescue organization reported this morning that the Libyan Coast Guard (LCG) interfered in one of their operations, forcing a number of refugees aboard Libyan ships while Sea-Watch was attempting a rescue. The LCG’s violent intervention caused a number of refugees to fall off their boat in a panic, and some drowned in the water. The actions of the LCG resulted in the deaths of five refugees, including one infant who Sea-Watch volunteers were unable to revive in their vessel. Sea-Watch reports:

"The reckless and violent behavior of Libyan Coast Guards has caused at least five deaths on the Central Mediterranean Sea this morning, as the crew of the Sea-Watch 3 was called to their first rescue mission by the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Center. A helicopter of the Italian Navy had to intervene to prevent more fatalities. 58 people are now safe aboard the Sea-Watch 3, despite all efforts, our medical team was not able to revive an infant in our clinic. The Libyan Coast Guards forced a few of the passengers on their vessel and took them back in the direction of Libya. By interfering in the rescue operation, the Libyans clearly violated international law: The incident took place at 30 nm off the coast, in international waters far outside of Libyan territorial waters."

Other organizations that have looked into today’s incident, including Watch the Med, have agreed with Sea-Watch that the LCG was outside of their territorial waters, and clearly acting in a reckless and illegal manner."

ITALY

"As AYS reported in a special earlier this week, refugees living in Pordenone, Italy, have been living in an extremely precarious situation for over three years now, living in makeshift camps and sleeping rough on the street. AYS documented how the local mayor authorized harsher treatment of refugees, including the confiscation of their possessions and eviction from their campsites. AYS reported, “Refugees are continually evicted - both day and night; even a simple backpack on the lawn is a synonym of a “bivouac” situation. Following this logic, blankets and sleeping bags donated by MSF are confiscated and, despite pursuing all the bureaucratic routes, it is impossible to having them returned.”

Lesvos, Greece

"Today is the eleventh day of the hunger strike, and the eighteenth day of protest for refugees who have been occupying Sappho Square on Lesvos. The respected refugee activist Arash Hampay has announced that he will begin a hunger strike tomorrow in solidarity with the protestors there.

It has been reported tonight by activists on the ground that an ambulance called into Sappho Square to aid three hunger striking women denied them medical care. The police were unwilling to assist, and the women were only given care after refugees and volunteers demanded that a second ambulance be called."

The Greek island camp where only the sick or pregnant can leave (Guardian, link):

"Thousands of refugees are living in squalid conditions on Samos, and a diagnosis of illness could be a ticket to getting out."

Greece: Unknown group claims attack on refugee boy’s home (ekathimerini.com, link):

"An unknown group calling itself Krypteia on Monday claimed responsibility for last week’s attack on the home of an 11-year-old Afghan boy in the Athens suburb of Dafni.

An anonymous caller told the Iefimerida website that the group was behind the hit, adding, “We will fight until the last illegal immigrant has gone and we will use violence, mercilessly.”"

Greece: Open Letter to the European Commission from Chios - EU Commission must take responsibility for inhumanity of Greek hotspots (Are You Syrious, link):

"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." (...)

Child immigration detention: Why EU states must cut it out (euractiv, link):

"European governments are treating children like criminals by detaining them because of their migration status. It’s time to care for them as the children they are, writes Lavinia Liardo"

European Parliament: Border control: strengthening security in the EU (link): Includes:

"Information-sharing on the return of irregular migrants: To help enforce decisions by a member state on returning an illegally staying non-EU national to his or her country of origin, MEPs also approved:

- an obligation for member states to enter into the SIS all return decisions issued;
- a new alert system will inform national bodies whether the period for ‘leaving voluntarily’, during which the person is asked to leave the EU, has expired;
- a requirement for national authorities to inform the member state that launched the alert that a non-EU national has left the EU.

Currently, there is no system in place to automatically provide information on return decisions, which are now shared on a voluntary basis."

ITALY: Account of a serious violation of the law in the hotspot in Lampedusa

- In spite of the ECtHR sentence in the Khlaifa case, arbitrary detention, mass expulsions and denial of the right to asylum continue

EU: Libyan Coast Guard accused of causing "at least five deaths" in the Mediterranean

"The violent and reckless behavior of Libyan Coast Guards has caused at least five deaths on the Central Mediterranean Sea this morning, as the crew of the Sea-Watch 3 was called to their first rescue mission by the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Center. A helicopter of the Italian Navy had to intervene to prevent more fatalities. 58 people are now safe aboard the Sea-Watch 3, despite all efforts, our medical team was not able to revive an infant in our clinic. The Libyan Coast Guards forced a few of the passengers on their vessel and took them back in direction Libya. By interfering in the rescue operation, the Libyans clearly violated international law: The incident took place at 30 nm off the coast, in international waters far outside of Libyan territorial waters. (...)

“Probably, nobody would have had to die today if only we had the possibility to operate reasonably in a calm environment. Instead of coordinating the rescue operation with the vessels present such as a ship of the French Navy, the Libyans tried to take as many people as possible back to Libya – and accepted the loss of several lives”, says head of mission Johannes Bayer. “These deaths have to be blamed on the Libyan Coast Guards who have obstructed a safe rescue with their brutal behavior. The responsability is on the side of the European Union, however, who trains and finances these militias. They act in the EU’s will. The European governments finally have to draw conclusions from this incident and stop the collaboration with the Libyan Coast Guards. The EU has to stop to rate migration control higher than human rights!”"

See: Breaking: Dramatic first rescue operation for Sea-Watch 3 (Sea-Watch, link)

GREECE: "Welcome to Greece" - An interview with Olga Lafazani, coordinator of City Plaza (Melting Pot Europa, link):

"Since April the 22nd 2016, the "Refugee Accommodation and Solidarity Space City Plaza" is an occupied hotel, managed by a group of activists and refugees, currently home to about 400 migrants. It is located nearby Victoria Square, a meeting place for migrants in Athens, which came to the attention of the news in March 2016 when the police evicted hundreds of people camped there, leaving them without accommodation.

During our stay in City Plaza, we had the opportunity to meet the activists who gave birth to the project and who are still directly involved in the daily life of the squat. Here is an interview with Olga Lafazani, from Athens, who has been working there with the organisation she is part of, since the first day of squatting. Her experience make up the evidence that it is possible to give life to such a project, also providing the chance to understand the ideas, the values and the strengths that characterise it and allow it to survive."

Hungarian refugees of 1956 and the current refugee crisis (Hungarian Spectrum, link):

"It was about two years ago that Viktor Orbán explained that keeping “migrants” within walled compounds guarded by police was the norm when the Hungarian refugees arrived in Austria. “What do you think? They were free to go anywhere? They were in camps for years until they were properly vetted.” This was essentially Orbán’s justification for creating closed camps for those refugees who arrived in Hungary, after a fence was erected to keep most of the refugees out. According to official Hungarian statistics, 193,748 people left the country between October 23 and the spring of 1957, most of them via Austria (174,057). What happened to these people? Did they stay in closed refugee camps, waiting for years? No. According to the statistics, by March 31, 1957 only 35,250 Hungarian refugees were still in Austria. The rest were moved within months to 35 different countries, which offered them food and shelter until they found jobs."

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