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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe

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Statewatch Observatory: The refugee crisis in the Med and inside the EU: a humanitarian emergency

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Webinar, 21 April 2020: Under surveillance: Monitoring at the border (Greens/EFA, link):

"Who is controlling the border control?

On the 21st of April from 16:00-17:45, Tineke Strik and Apostolis Fotiadis will host an online panel discussion on the human rights monitoring of the EU external border controls. During this webinar, Apostolis Fotiadis will present the findings of his research titled: "Persistent and novel challenges for FRONTEX's monitoring system".

The discussions will focus on both the role of FRONTEX and human rights monitoring bodies. To what extent is the current system functional and does it effectively monitor human rights violations? And what could the future of an effective EU border monitoring system look like, would an independent body be a solution to overcome current problems?"

Med: 12 Left to Die and 182 Stranded as EU States Refuse Rescue (ECRE, link):

"Twelve people have died after a series of acts of non-assistance by EU and national authorities. Over 50 people have been pushed back to Libya and 182 remain stranded on civilian rescue vessels. The Council of Europe stresses that states should ensure rescue at sea and allow safe disembarkation during the COVID-19 crisis.

According to the Libya Office of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) 51 people have been returned to Libyan detention centres and up to twelve have died after being left in distress at sea for several days without assistance. EU and Member States authorities reportedly failed to initiate a rescue despite being repeatedly alerted by the NGO Alarm Phone. According to the NGO, the distress case has been known to the European authorities for six days, upon aerial sighting by a Frontex asset on April 10. The boat was finally picked up by a merchant vessel in the Maltese Search & Rescue (SAR) Zone and returned to Libya by a fishing vessel. The survivors were handed over to Libyan authorities and put into Tarik Al Sikka detention centre in Tripoli, known for its inhuman conditions. Maltese authorities reportedly coordinated the push-back."

European Commission: COVID-19: Guidance on the implementation of relevant EU provisions in the area of asylum and return procedures and on resettlement (COM 2516, 2020, pdf);

"The pandemic has direct consequences on the way EU asylum and return rules are being implemented by Member States and a disruptive effect on resettlement. The Commission fully acknowledges the difficulties that in the current context Member States face when implementing relevant EU rules in this regard. Any measure taken in the area of asylum, resettlement and return should also take full account of the health protection measures introduced by the Member States on their territories to prevent and contain the spread of COVID-19."

Greece to move migrants out of congested island camps (euractiv, link):

"Greece will this month begin moving hundreds of elderly and ailing asylum seekers out of congested island camps to protect them from the coronavirus, the migration ministry said on Thursday (16 April).

The ministry said 2,380 “vulnerable persons” will be moved out of camps on Aegean islands to apartments, hotels and other camps on the mainland.

Authorities said the operation will begin on 19 April and take about two weeks. Details will be announced at a later date."

The situation in the Greek islands four years after the EU-Turkey statement (Border Criminologies, link):

"In March 2016, EU leaders and Turkey issued a joint statement declaring that migrants travelling from Turkey to any Greek island would be returned back to Turkey. Following this, Greek authorities imposed a restriction of stay on all new arrivals, under which no-one could leave the islands, thus leaving thousands stranded. The number of asylum seekers soon exceeded the capacity of the Reception and Identification Centers (also known as hot-spots).

With no space in these centers, the living conditions inside them quickly deteriorated. Additionally, countless asylum seekers had to live in deplorable conditions outside. Thus, thousands of asylum seekers—who were already in a precarious status to begin with—were forced to live in conditions violating their dignity in formal and makeshift camps at the edge or near the islands’ capitals."

Greece: Free Unaccompanied Migrant Children: New Campaign to Shelter Children, End Detention Amid COVID-19 (HRW, link):

" Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis should free hundreds of unaccompanied migrant children detained in unhygienic police cells and detention centers in Greece, Human Rights Watch said today in opening a campaign to free the children. Their release from abusive detention conditions would better protect them from infection amid the coronavirus pandemic."

Greeks fear Erdogan readies another migration wave by sea (euractiv, link):

"Turkey is gathering a high number of migrants at its western coasts and urging them to sail across the sea border to neighbouring Greece, several Greek media reported over the weekend.

They quoted high-ranking government officials in Athens as saying these migrants, who completed their 14-day quarantine due to coronavirus, have been transferred in buses from migration camps to seaside towns just opposite the Greek island of Lesvos, which is already packed with migrants and refugees."

Rescue group, EU officials dispute fate of 85 sea migrants (euractiv, link):

"Europe’s coast guards and rescue agencies were at loggerheads Monday (13 April) about the fate of four dinghies and up to 85 migrants potentially lost at sea after setting off from Libya.Germany’s Sea-Watch International reported that the little rubber boats had been carrying 258 people."

See also: UNHCR alarm over dozens of missing migrants in Mediterranean (euractiv, link)

'We are dying' migrants adrift in Maltese waters - Archbishop calls for rescue (Times of Malta, link):

"A migrant boat adrift in Malta’s search and rescue zone is taking in water with those on board in dire need of help, according to an NGO.

Alarm Phone on Sunday tweeted that a boat of 47 migrants in distress had run out of fuel and been drifting in Malta’s SAR zone for more than two days.

“The people in distress told us: 'We are so tired, the situation is like hell. The boat lost so much air, water is coming inside. We are dying. No water, no food. Some people lost consciousness. Come save us please. We are close to death.’,”the NGO tweeted. "

Italy to move 'Alan Kurdi' migrants to another ship (DW, link)

"Italy will transfer migrants from crowded rescue ship "Alan Kurdi" to another vessel where they would be kept in quarantine over coronavirus concerns, officials said. The privately owned ship has been stranded for days."

Council of the European Union: Labour migration as a basis for partnerships with third countries ? Presidency discussion paper (iImite,doc no: 5672.- 20, pdf):

"Migration is a human and global phenomenon that will continue to be one of the central topics on the political agenda in the EU since the geopolitical circumstances in its closer and wider neighbourhood are becoming ever more complex"

Migration minister confirms migrants gathering along Turkish coast (, link):

"Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis said on Monday that, although migrants have started gathering along the Turkish coastline opposite the islands of the eastern Aegean, there are no indications that they are infected with coronavirus, as some media reports had suggested over the weekend."

Is the ‘war on Covid-19’ morphing into a war on the poor? (IRR News, link):

"The pandemic is revealing the ways in which global health outcomes are shaped by race, class and indigeneity.(...)

History teaches us that inhumane police practices are quick to establish but hard to dismantle with long-term consequences for policing by consent within a democratic order."

Refugees left behind in coronavirus crisis, aid groups warn (euractiv, link):

"With restrictive measures imposed across Europe, authorities are struggling to provide food and shelter for migrants and asylum seekers sleeping outdoors, aid organisations have warned.

In France, hundreds of refugees living outdoors without proper sanitation or shelter now face food shortages as well, according to charity ‘Refugee Info Bus’.

Grassroots aid groups that have served daily hot meals to migrants and refugees in Northern France have been forced to suspend their activities due to COVID-19."

'Coronavirus doesn't respect barbed wire': concern mounts for Greek camps - Calls grow for EU countries to accept refugees as outbreaks fuel fears that virus could rampage through overcrowded facilities (Guardian, ,link):

"In Aegean islands on the frontline of the crisis, health carers speak of days gained, not won.

But an outbreak of the disease in two facilities near Athens has intensified concerns over the estimated 36,000 men, women and children stranded on remote isles opposite the Turkish coast.

Installations on Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Leros and Kos – at six times over capacity, sprawling, wretched and congested – where social distancing, and other precautionary measures are an impossible privilege, offer fertile ground for Covid-19."

Second Greek migrant camp under coronavirus lockdown - Camp in Malakasa under 'full sanitary isolation' for 14 days after a 53-year-old asylum seeker tests positive (Al Jazeera, link):

"Officials in Greece have placed a second migrant camp near Athens under lockdown after an Afghan resident tested positive for the coronavirus, the migration ministry said.

Officials said the camp in Malakasa, some 38 kilometres (24 miles) northeast of Athens, was placed under "full sanitary isolation" for 14 days, with no one allowed to enter or leave."

And see: Greece quarantines camp after migrants test coronavirus positive (Reuters, link)

Greece/Turkey: Asylum-seekers and migrants killed and abused at borders (Amnesty, link):

"In the midst of violence at the Greek-Turkish border, at least two men were killed and a woman remains missing after Greek border forces reportedly fired live ammunition and tear gas against asylum-seekers and migrants. This occurred after Turkish authorities recklessly encouraged them to travel to Greece under false pretences, new research by Amnesty International has revealed.

From 27 February onwards, thousands of people headed to the Greek border after Turkish authorities encouraged and facilitated their movement there. Some asylum seekers and their families living in Turkey even gave up their accommodation and spent all their money to make the journey. However, Greek authorities repressed the movement of people attempting to cross by bolstering border control, sending in police and army forces who used tear gas, water cannons, plastic bullets and live ammunition."

SAMOS, GREECE: My open letter to the new manager of the Samos Hotspot (Samos Voice, link): by Professor Chris Jones.

From the « war against the virus » to the war against exiles : security responses to Covid-19 exacerbate violence at borders (migreurop, link)

"The Greek hotspots in which exiles are crammed without any protection of their rights or from the pandemic are an example of the precarization of their trajectories by the security policies of States. Migreurop denounces the violence inflicted onto exiles in the name of the “war against the virus”, their unequal treatment with regard to the pandemic, and demands the immediate closure of all spaces of migrant detention in order to ensure their right to be protected."


March 2020

Coronavirus: Urgent appeal for evacuation of Greek refugee camps (DW, link):

"Europe's biggest asylum seeker camp of Moria, on the Greek island of Lesbos, was designed for 3,000 refugees but houses 20,000. Given the coronavirus, evacuating it is paramount, says migration expert Gerald Knaus."

AEGEAN Boat Report (link): 33 - 30 March, 2020.

‘Are we in Greece?’: Migrants seize their chance in Europe quest (EUractiv, limk):

"Some attempt to cut through a barbed wire fence while others hunt for wood and rocks to throw at police. The thousands of migrants at the Kastanies border town between Turkey and Greece are desperate to reach Europe and furious with Greeks who “won’t open the gates”.

Hundreds of Greek soldiers and armed police have fired tear gas in an attempt to hold back what they fear could become a flood of people trying to cross the border."

Portugal to treat migrants as residents during coronavirus crisis (Reuters, link):

"All foreigners in Portugal with pending applications will be treated as permanent residents from Monday until at least July 1, authorities said on Saturday, to ensure migrants have access to public services during the coronavirus outbreak.

Applicants including asylum seekers need only provide evidence of an ongoing request to qualify - granting them access to the national health service, welfare benefits, bank accounts, and work and rental contracts."

Greece: Nearly 2,000 New Arrivals Detained in Overcrowded, Mainland Camps - Citing COVID-19, Authorities Arbitrarily Detain New Arrivals (HRW, link):

"Greek authorities are arbitrarily detaining nearly 2,000 migrants and asylum seekers in unacceptable conditions, and denying them the right to lodge asylum claims, in two recently established detention sites on mainland Greece, Human Rights Watch said today. Authorities claim they are holding the new arrivals, including children, persons with disabilities, older people, and pregnant women, in quarantine due to COVID-19, but the absence of even basic health precautions is likely to help the virus spread."

  Return to borderless Europe after COVID-19 will be difficult but not impossible. (EUractiv, link):

"If we do not start creating conditions for the return to a border-free Schengen zone now, the temporary measures introduced to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic risk becoming permanent, writes Alena Kudzko."

EU/Greece/Turkey: Crisis not averted: security policies cannot solve a humanitarian problem, now or in the long-term (pdf)

At the end of February, the Turkish government announced it would allow refugees to travel onwards to Greece and Bulgaria, in the hope of extracting from the EU further financial support as well as backing for its military operations in Syria. It has now taken up its role as Europe's border guard again, but the manufactured crisis induced by the Turkish decision and the EU response highlight the long-term failings of the EU's asylum and migration model.

Books for refugees in Greece: Help ECHO buy a new library van! (Chuffed, link):

"There are currently 115,000 refugees in Greece. Many are trapped in an asylum system that puts lives into a state of paralyzing insecurity and deep boredom. Isolated by a government that describes them as ‘dirt’, ‘dust’, and ‘parasites’, most are forced to live in peripheral camps far from the towns and city centres.

In five of the locations our library visits, it is the only source of education for adults. Meanwhile, less than 50% of school age children in these locations are in school. In these deplorable and ostracising conditions, both hope and relief can be hard to come by.

The ECHO mobile library travels 250km to 11 locations in and around Athens each week. We have; books in 13 languages, learning resources, lessons, whiteboards, rugs, tea and structured children’s activities.

Our faithful old library van is on the edge of collapse. It is twenty years old and has seen more than 200,000km on the road. Breakdowns have cost us three days of library sessions in two months - and we’ve been told that the next will probably be its last... With your help we can get our library back on the road. All donations, no matter how small, help us get closer. "

See: Good deeds: the mobile library reaching refugees' hearts and minds (The Guardian, link)

EU: MEPs, migration policy experts call for urgent action to uphold refugee rights

Over 100 MEPs from four political groups in the European Parliament have called on the European Commission to take action so that "fundamental rights and the right to asylum" are upheld in Greece. Their calls have been echoed by dozens of migration policy experts working on EU-funded projects.

Migration: tales of brutality along Europe’s borders (Financial Times, link):

"Violence, increasingly routine at the doorstep of the EU, is hardening into what asylum-seekers and rights groups see as brutal, if unofficial, policy.

Interviews with 25 migrants and several aid organisations suggest beatings and “pushbacks” — the forcing of asylum seekers out of a country before their applications can be reviewed — are now systemic, despite violating EU law. The normalisation of violence grows as migrants seek new routes. Initial criticism focused on Hungary, before allegations rose in Bulgaria and Greece. In recent months, as more migrants try Balkan routes passing through Croatia and Romania, accusations of violence along these borders have soared."

MALTA: Free the #ElHiblu3 (Alarm Phone, link):

"One year ago, a rubber boat with over 100 people on board left the coast of Libya to reach safety in Europe. Although they were found and rescued by the merchant vessel El Hiblu 1, its crew was ordered by European authorities to return the rescued to Libya. Through a collective protest on board, the 108 rescued people averted a push-back and prompted the crew to steer toward Malta. During the protest, nobody was injured and nothing was damaged. In public, they were described as ‘pirates’ and ‘terrorists’ but when the Maltese military stormed the vessel, they only met humans who were looking for protection.

...Our international solidarity campaign – Free the El Hiblu Three! – launches today. Passengers of the El Hiblu 1, sea-rescue organisations, international lawyers, researchers, activists, human rights organisations in Malta and beyond have come together to call for the immediate dismissal of the trial. Instead of being prosecuted, the El Hiblu Three should be celebrated for preventing an illegal push-back to Libya."

See: Free El Hiblu 3 (link) and: The Rescue: A flimsy raft, more than 100 souls, and three teenage heroes—or are they pirates? (The Atavist, link)

MEDITERRANEAN: Privatized Pushbacks: How Merchant Ships Guard Europe (New York Times, link):

"The Panther, a German-owned merchant ship, is not in the business of sea rescues. But one day a few months ago the Libyan Coast Guard ordered it to divert course, rescue 68 migrants in distress in the Mediterranean and return them to Libya, which is embroiled in civil war.

The request, which the Panther was required to honor, was at least the third time that day, Jan. 11, that the Libyans had called on a merchant ship to assist migrants.

The Libyans could easily have alerted a nearby rescue ship run by a Spanish charity. The reason they did not goes to the core of how the European authorities have found a new way to thwart desperate African migrants trying to reach their shores from across the Mediterranean.

And some maritime lawyers think the new tactic is unlawful.

...“We call them privatized pushbacks,” said Charles Heller, the director of Forensic Oceanography, a research group that investigates migrant rights abuses in the Mediterranean. “They occur when merchant ships are used to rescue and bring back migrants to a country in which their lives are at risk — such as Libya.”"

See: PRIVATISED PUSH-BACK OF THE NIVIN (Forensic Architecture, link)

EU asks Greece to move migrants most at risk from coronavirus out of crowded camps (ekathimerini, link):

"The European Union has asked Greece to move migrants most at risk of contracting the coronavirus from overcrowded camps on its islands, the EU's top migration official told Reuters on Tuesday.

Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said Athens had opposed moving the migrants to the Greek mainland, citing the absence of coronavirus cases in the camps while the disease is spreading elsewhere in Greece."

And see: Greece: Move Asylum Seekers, Migrants to Safety: Immediate Hotspot Decongestion Needed to Address COVID-19 (Human Rights Watch, link) and: COVID-19 PAVES WAY FOR MASS DETENTION OF MIGRANTS (Lesvos Legal Centre, link)

Senior MEP calls for EU action to stop coronavirus spreading to Greek migrant camps (Politico, link):

"There is no chance of isolation or social distancing,’ in overcrowded camps, says head of civil liberties committee.

The EU must come up with an “immediate" response to the problem of coronavirus spreading in Greece's overcrowded migrant camps, where social distancing is almost impossible, according to the head of the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee."

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