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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
2-8.4.19
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Statewatch Observatory: The refugee crisis in the Med and inside the EU: a humanitarian emergency
Analysis: Italy's redefinition of sea rescue as a crime draws on EU policy for inspiration

On the evening of 18 March, an ongoing conflict between the Italian government and civil sea rescue initiatives was reignited following the rescue of 49 people in international waters north of Libya by the ship Mare Jonio, of the Italian citizen-funded sea rescue initiative Mediterranea - Saving Humans.

Three teens charged in Malta over refugee ship hijacking (Al Jazeera, link):

"Authorities in Malta have charged three teenagers with committing an act of "terrorism" for their suspected role in hijacking a merchant ship that rescued them off the coast of Libya.

The teenagers, among 108 refugees and asylum seekers rescued by El Hiblu 1 earlier this week, appeared at a court in the Maltese capital, Valletta, on Saturday.

They were accused of seizing control of the tanker and using force and intimidation against the crew to change the ship's course to Europe."

Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 12,174 in 2019; Deaths Reach 356 (IOM, link):

"The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports that 12,174 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea through 3 April. Deaths on the three main Mediterranean Sea routes have reached 356 individuals."

See also: IOM Statement: Protecting Migrants in Libya Must be Our Primary Focus (link): "Libya cannot yet be considered a safe port."

EU Trust Fund for Africa: €115.5 million to enhance security, migrant protection and job creation in the Sahel region (European Commission press release, pdf):

"The European Commission adopted five new programmes and three top-ups of current programmes worth €115.5 million under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa to complement ongoing efforts in the Sahel and Lake Chad region.

...An additional €30 million will serve to protect migrants and refugees along the Central Mediterranean route and look for sustainable solutions in the Sahel and Lake Chad region. It will further increase the number of migrants benefitting from protection and voluntary return while ensuring their sustainable and dignified reintegration. In Niger, the Joint Investigation Team has dismantled 33 criminal networks and 210 smugglers have been convicted over the past two years. It will receive an extra €5.5 million to build on this success. In Ghana, €5 million for capacity-building and equipment will strengthen the country's border management."

Austria extends duration of border checks for Hungary and Slovenia - APA (Reuters, link):

"ZURICH (Reuters) - Austria will extend its border controls for fellow EU members Hungary and Slovenia until at least November, Austrian news agency APA reported on Sunday, citing a letter from the country’s interior minister to the European Commission.

In the letter to the EU Commission, Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl cited a persistently high number of illegal migrants and a “latent threat of terrorism” related to the prospect of fighters returning from former Islamic State strongholds in Syria and Iraq, APA reported. "

Surveillance Company Cellebrite Finds a New Exploit: Spying on Asylum Seekers (Privacy International, link):

"Cellebrite, a surveillance firm marketing itself as the “global leader in digital intelligence”, is marketing its digital extraction devices at a new target: authorities interrogating people seeking asylum.

Israel-based Cellebrite, a subsidiary of Japan’s Sun Corporation, markets forensic tools which empower authorities to bypass passwords on digital devices, allowing them to download, analyse, and visualise data. "

Spanish fireman faces 20 years in prison for rescuing migrants at sea (El País, link):

"“We could only save half of them, many people drowned,” remembers Roldán, a 32-year-old firefighter from the southern city of Málaga, who has been part of the underwater unit of the Seville City Hall Fire Department since 2013. His act of solidarity that day, as well as his help on other rescue missions in the summer of 2017, could land him behind bars for 20 years for allegedly aiding illegal immigration and working with human traffickers."

Spain’s civilian coast guard caught in election crosshairs (Politico, link):

"An overhaul of Spain’s operations in the Mediterranean has sparked fears among activists that Madrid is quietly gutting a civilian search-and-rescue agency credited with saving thousands of lives.

The changes to the Salvamento Marítimo rescue operation come as Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s center-left government is under electoral pressure from the far right ahead of a general election later this month.

...Four of the agency’s mid-sized rescue ships will be moved from the Sea of Alborán, where most sea rescues took place last summer, to areas that receive less migrant traffic: one to the Balearic Islands, two to the eastern Spanish city of Cartagena, and one to the Canary Islands, according to an internal February report from Salvamento Marítimo’s security and safety committee obtained by POLITICO."

Gen Khalifa Haftar’s forces close in on Tripoli (Irish Times, link):

"Dozens of migrants and refugees in a Tripoli detention centre were dressed in old military uniforms and ordered to begin packing weapons this week, as rival forces began to march on the Libyan capital.(...)

In the Tripoli detention centre, some of the thousands of refugees and migrants who are locked up indefinitely, after being returned to Libya by the EU-backed Libyan coastguard, worried that they may be forced to fight."

Vento e pioggia sui migranti: le immagini a bordo della nave Alan Kurdi (lapresse.it, link):

On board of the Alan Kurdi, ship blocked in application of the directive from interior ministry. Appears its heading for Malta after not having been allowed into Italian waters.

. AYS on criminalisation, pushbacks in EU Parliament (link)

UN head ‘shocked’ by suffering at migrant camp in LibyaUN head ‘shocked’ by suffering at migrant camp in Libya (euractiv, link):

"UN Secretary General António Guterres said Thursday (4 April) he was “shocked” by the level of suffering of migrants at a detention centre in Tripoli which he visited during a visit to the Libyan capital.

“I was very moved and shocked by the level of suffering and especially by the level of despair that I found,” Guterres told reporters during the second day of trip to Tripoli during which he visited the Zara detention centre."

EU funds the sacking of rescue ships in the Mediterranean (link):

"The European Union has mandated Italy to set up several maritime control centres in Libya. The Coast Guard and Maritime Police will be linked to European surveillance systems, the authorities will communicate directly with Frontex. The project costs 46 million euros and starts in July. But the Libyan Coast Guard has since long been connected to Italian counterparts.

European Parliament: Briefing: Recasting the Return Directive (pdf):

"Taking into account the decrease in the EU return rate (45.8 % in 2016 and 36.6 % in 2017), and following European Council and Council calls to review the 2008 legal text to enhance the effectiveness of the EU return policy, the Commission has proposed a targeted recast of the directive aiming to 'reduce the length of return procedures, secure a better link between asylum and return procedures and ensure a more effective use of measures to prevent absconding'."

See also: Lock ‘em up: the proposal to amend the EU’s Returns Directive (EU Law Analysis, link) by Professor Steve Peers.

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