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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
15-24.9.18
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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
EU: A majority of Europeans favor taking in refugees, but most disapprove of EU’s handling of the issue (Pew Research Center, link):

"Three years after a record 1.3 million migrants sought asylum in Europe, a majority of people in several European countries say they support taking in refugees who are fleeing violence and war, according to a Pew Research Center survey. However, most people in these countries disapprove of the way the European Union has dealt with the refugee issue."

EU: Missing at the Borders: the website for the project dedicated to the families of migrants deceased, missing or victims of enforced disappearances

"People not numbers". This is the fundamental principle that guides Missing at the Borders, the project aimed at giving voice to the victims of enforced disappearances and the families of migrants who have become deceased or missing while attempting to reach Europe.

The self-financed initiative is promoted by a network of organizations that works on both sides of the Mediterranean to combine forces with the families of migrants.

Hungary upholds 'terrorism' conviction against Syrian refugee (Al Jazeera, link):

"A Hungarian court rejected the appeal of a Syrian refugee and upheld his 2016 conviction for "terrorism", but reduced his seven-year sentence, in what a rights group called an abuse of anti-terrorism laws.

The appeals court handed down the decision on Thursday in the southern city of Szeged to uphold the conviction while reducing Ahmed H's sentence to five years.

Eda Seyhan, Amnesty International's counterterrorism campaigner who was in the courtroom, said in a statement to Al Jazeera, "this judgement comes as a blow for Ahmed, his wife and his two young daughters.""

Italy acquits Tunisian 'migrant smuggling' fishermen (BBC News, link):

"Six Tunisian fishermen arrested earlier this month by Italian authorities for "aiding illegal migrants" have been cleared.

One of the men's lawyers and their fishermen's association confirmed the acquittal to the BBC.

The arrests outraged Tunisian fishermen and activists who demanded their release.

Supporters of the fishermen, from the south-east coastal town of Zarzis, said the men were aiding a boat in distress."

For in-depth background and context to the case and the role of Tunisian fishermen in carrying out rescues at sea, see: When rescue at sea becomes a crime: who the Tunisian fishermen arrested in Italy really are (OpenDemocracy, link)

Trump urged Spain to build Sahara wall to stop migrants (euobserver, link):

"Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell told attendees at a lunch in Madrid this week that US president Donald Trump seriously suggested the Spanish government build a wall across the Sahara desert to stop migration to Europe."

Morocco plays cat and mouse with Africans headed to Europe (euractiv, link):

"African emigrants are defying a campaign by Morocco to keep them away from land and sea crossings to Spain, which has become the main entry point to Europe for migrants and refugees following crackdowns elsewhere."

Greece to move asylum-seekers from overcrowded Lesbos camp (euobserver, link):

"Greece is planning to move some 2,000 asylum-seekers from the overcrowded Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos by the end of September, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos announced - ahead of migration talks at an informal EU summit in Austria. The Moria camp currently houses 9,000 people in a facility built for 3,100. Those being moved will be sent to the mainland to have their asylum claims examined."

Comment: There are currently 10,956 refguees on Lesvos (Ministry figure 19.9.18). The largest numbers are in the Moria detention centre and the "Olive Grove" adjacent to it.

Misery Deepens for Trapped Asylum Seekers in Greece - EU should stop backing policy that confines people to Aegean island (HRW, link):

"Boat migration to Greece is no longer in the headlines but the crisis for asylum seekers on the Greek islands continues.

More than 18,000 asylum seekers remain trapped in overcrowded camps on the Aegean islands. The largest, Moria camp on Lesbos, now holds more than 9,000 people, triple its capacity. Children don’t have access to schools and vulnerable asylum seekers, including pregnant women and people with disabilities, cannot access critical services."

African Union 'dismayed' at Salvini, says 'migrants aren't slaves' - Body asks interior minister to retract statement (ANSA, link):

"The African Union expressed "dismay" on Wednesday after Italian Interior Minister and Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini reportedly compared migrants to slaves. "The African Union Commission expresses dismay at the comments made by the Italian Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Matteo Salvini, at a recent conference in Vienna at which he likened African immigrants to slaves," the AU said in a statement. "It is the view of the African Union that name-calling will not resolve the migration challenges facing Africa and Europe"."

EU: Fixing the Refugee Crisis: Holding the Commission Accountable (Verfassungsblog, link) by Cathryn Costello and Elspeth Guild:

"Whatever its rhetoric, the Commission’s room for manoeuvre as a political norm entrepreneur on hot issues is constrained. Nonetheless, it could still have worked better, and seized the opportunity to make a success of relocation, and abandon Dublin decisively. However, it failed to shine as technical coordinator, to maintain its integrity as guardian of EU legality, or even stealthily act to maintain EU scrutiny before the CJEU. The ‘political Commission’ appears to have been politicized, in the sense of creating space for ad hoc governmental power over asylum, with all the deep divisions and disagreements that entailed. Much has been lost in that process."

EUCAP Sahel Niger: Council extends the mission for two years (Council of the EU, link):

"On 18 September 2018, the Council extended the mandate of EUCAP Sahel Niger until 30 September 2020 and agreed on a budget of €63.4 million for the period 1 October 2018 to 30 September 2020.

The Council also updated the mission's mandate. EUCAP Sahel Niger provides advice and training to support the Nigerien authorities in strengthening their security capabilities since its launch in 2012. The mission supports the capacity building of the Nigerien security actors to fight terrorism and organised crime. Since 2016, the mission has also assisted the Nigerien central and local authorities, as well as security forces, in developing the procedures and techniques to better control and address irregular migration.

EUCAP Sahel Niger contributes to the development of an integrated, multidisciplinary, coherent, sustainable, and human rights-based approach among the various Nigerien security actors."

German government seeks greater cooperation with Algeria on deportations

The German government wants to classify Algeria as a safe country of origin in terms of asylum law, as it has already done with Tunisia and Morocco. Rejected asylum seekers could be deported more quickly.

CoE: Hungary: anti-torture Committee observed decent conditions in transit zones but criticises treatment of irregular migrants when ‘pushed back’ to Serbia (link):

"The report highlights that in the context of ‘push-backs’, there was no procedure which would assess the risk of ill-treatment following the forcible removal, and the CPT recommends that the Hungarian authorities put an end to the practice of ‘push-backs’ to the Serbian side of the border.

The CPT expresses its misgivings about the fact that all foreign nationals seeking international protection, including families with children and unaccompanied minors (14 to 18 years of age), are compelled to stay in the transit zones at Röszke and Tompa while their asylum claims are being processed."

See: Report (pdf)

Lesvos, Greece: Moria is in a state of emergency (MSF, link):

"I have worked for 14 years as a clinical psychiatrist in the Mental Health department of Trieste in Italy. I’m considered an expert on psychiatric emergencies and I work with people who have addiction and psychiatric comorbidities. I treat people who have been victims of human trafficking, I provide mental health support for refugees and people in prison, and advise on protection and social recovery programmes. Over the course of my career, I have gained significant clinical and professional experience in difficult contexts and crisis situations.

In all of my years of medical practice, I have never witnessed such overwhelming numbers of people suffering from serious mental health conditions, as I am witnessing now amongst refugees on the island of Lesbos."

UN rules against expulsion of victim of torture from Switzerland to Italy (ECRE, link):

"The United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT) has ruled that the expulsion of a torture victim from Switzerland to Italy under the Dublin Regulation violates the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, by depriving him of the conditions conducive to recovery and rehabilitation."

See the ruling: Decision adopted by the Committee under article 22 of the Convention, concerning communication No. 742/2016 (pdf)

EU: Official evaluation of the European Border Surveillance System (Eurosur)

The European Commission has published an evaluation of the European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR), which recommends that the system be expanded for the "systematic inclusion" of all border crossing points; the monitoring of "secondary movements" of migrants within the EU; and to develop new services and better cooperate with "third parties", for example through "big data analysis" of EU databases such as the Schengen Information System, the Visa Information System and Europol's computer systems.

EU: Frontex tests drones for border surveillance: €6.5m for Leonardo and Israel Aerospace Industries

Frontex has recently signed two contracts for tests on border surveillance drones with the companies Leonardo (formerly Finmeccanica) and Israel Aerospace Industries, worth €1.7 million and €4.75 million respectively.

GREECE: 19 organizations demand decongestion of the islands and immediate improvement of refugee reception conditions

Athens, September 13, 2018 - Over 17,000 people remain crammed in Greek island reception centers with a total capacity for only 6,000, living in desperate conditions which do not meet humanitarian standards. This, despite public assurances from the Greek Minister of Migration Policy, Dimitris Vitsas, that the islands would be decongested by September and that thousands of new places would be created on the Greek mainland. As conditions continue to deteriorate, 19 civil society organisations once again urge authorities to engage in the creation of sustainable solutions for the decongestion of the islands and to immediately improve reception conditions for refugees. It is nothing short of shameful that people are expected to endure such horrific conditions on European soil.

Greece: Number of refugees on islands rising: Official figures show that the total numbers on the islands (13.9.18) have risen to 19,711 with the numbers on Lesvos rising to 10.599. The Hope Project on Lesvos reports: "Over just this weekend 10 boats arrived in Lesvos! 519 people! Many children!."

Mytilini harbour on Lesvos has five Frontex and UK boats (The Vailant and Seeker) in constant use to patrol and "search & rescue".

GREECE: FreeHumanitarians (link):

"Nassos Karakitsos, Seán Binder & Sarah Mardini are three humanitarian workers who have been arrested and detained by Greek Authorities.

They have been accused among others for assisting illegally refugees to enter Greece,being a member of a criminal organization, and espionage."

See also: Help is no crime: stand with volunteers against the criminalisation of solidarity (JRS, ;onk)

As the World Abandons Refugees, UNHCR’s Constraints Are Exposed (Refguees Deeply, link):

"The U.N. refugee agency lacks the funding, political clout and independence to protect refugees in the way that it is supposed to, says former UNHCR official and refugee policy expert Jeff Crisp."

Migrant rescue ship Aquarius back in troubled waters (euobserver, link):

"The Aquarius, a rescue ship operated by French charities SOS Mediterranee and Medicins sans Frontieres, sailed back to international waters off Libya this weekend to resume work despite an EU dispute with Italy and Malta on who should take in the people it picks up at sea. No charity ships have worked in the region since late August, when Italy refused to let people on board the Aquarius to disembark."

Germany and Austria back tougher EU external border (euobserver, link):

"German chancellor Angela Merkel and Austrian leader Sebastian Kurz agreed Sunday to back the creation of a 10,000-man EU border force and cooperate with African states to stem migration flows. "There can be no open borders within Europe without proper protection of external EU borders," Kurz said. Morocco, which stopped 65,000 people from coming to the EU last year, is to get €236m in EU aid to stop others."

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