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Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
17.12.19-13.1.20

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

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UK: No sanctuary for migrants: Undocumented migrants criminalised (Big Issue North, link):

"Forces detain refused asylum seekers and undocumented migrants for a variety of immigration offences – with Immigration, Compliance and Enforcement (ICE) agents sometimes even working out of police stations. The trend reflects what Bhatia, from Birkbeck College at the University of London, sees as the merging of the UK immigration and criminal justice systems in recent years.

He said: “Using a false passport, for example, used to be a civil offence but now it’s dealt with under criminal law. There are now 89 immigration-related offences on the statute books where a person can go to prison.

“The focus on the inherent ‘dangerousness’ of this group and re-classification of immigration breaches as serious criminal offences mean the system frequently resorts to imprisonment for what are non-violent offences.""

12 migrants found dead after boat sinks off western Greece (ekathimerini, link):

"Greece's coast guard reports that 12 bodies of migrants have been collected from the Ionian Sea, southwest of the Greek island of Paxos in western Greece, after their boat took in water and sank.

A coast guard spokesperson told the Associated Press that 21 migrants had been safely recovered from the sea. “The initial report is that 50 people were in the boat,” he said.

There was no further information about the migrants, including age, gender and ethnic background."

EU-ERITREA: How Forced Labor in Eritrea Is Linked to E.U.-Funded Projects (The New York Times, link):

"BRUSSELS — The European Union spent 20 million euros last year in Eritrea, hoping to help stem an exodus from the repressive African country, which is consistently one of its biggest sources of asylum seekers.

The money, about $22 million, bought equipment and materials to build a road, a seemingly uncontroversial task. The catch? Many workers on the construction site are forced conscripts, and the European Union has no real means of monitoring the project.

The decision caused outrage in human-rights circles. But that did not stop the bloc in December from deciding to give Eritrea tens of millions more, funding a system of forced conscription that the United Nations has described as “tantamount to enslavement.”"

The Hope Project Charity Auction London, 6–17 January 2020

Christie’s is proud to present a charity auction to benefit
The Hope Project, which is founded on the principles of dignity, compassion and safety for all.

The Hope Project Arts is a safe place for refugees to express themselves through art, theatre, poetry, music, dance and so much more, while teaching others new skills and promoting a sense of community and understanding.

The Hope Project’s overriding focus is the mental health of refugees on Lesvos. The artworks exhibited here were all created by refugees in The Hope Project art studio, many of whom are still living on the island.

The sale will take place in London on 13 January 2020 at 7:15 pm Christie’s, King Street, St. James's, London SW1Y 6QT

Viewing: 6 – 17 January, 8:30 – 6:30pm St James’s Piccadilly Church and 9, 10 & 13 January, 8:30 – 6:30pm Christie’s, King Street

EU: EASO operations to double in size this year (EASO, link):

"In December 2019, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) signed Operating Plans with the national asylum authorities of Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Malta, following needs-based discussions on the support which the Agency will provide throughout 2020.

In 2020, EASO will see its operational deployments double in size, with up to 550 personnel deployed in Greece, 150 in Italy, 120 in Cyprus and 60 in Malta. In addition, interpreters and security personnel will be deployed in the four Member States, bringing the total deployment up to as many as 2,000 personnel. Cyprus, Greece and Malta will all see a doubling of EASO personnel, while operational deployments in Italy will be decreased in light of changing needs on the part of the Italian authorities."

EU: Irregular migration into EU at lowest level since 2013 (Frontex, link):

"The number of irregular border crossings detected on the European Union’s external borders last year fell to the lowest level since 2013 due to a drop in the number of people reaching European shores via the Central and Western Mediterranean routes.

Preliminary 2019 data collected by Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, showed a 6% fall in illegal border crossings along the EU’s external borders to just over 139 000. This is 92% below the record number set in 2015.

The number of irregular migrants crossing the Central Mediterranean fell roughly 41% to around 14 000. Nationals of Tunisia and Sudan accounted for the largest share of detections on this route.

The total number of irregular migrants detected in the Western Mediterranean dropped approximately 58% to around 24 000, with Moroccans and Algerians making up the largest percentage.
"

MALTA: UNHCR concerned about fire at reception centre, calls for urgent action on detention conditions (UNHCR, link):

"UNHCR is deeply concerned about the fire that broke out at the Initial Reception Centre in Marsa on Wednesday 8th January 2020.

It is a relief that there were no serious injuries. We thank the staff of the government Agency for the Welfare of Asylum-Seekers (AWAS) and emergency services for acting swiftly to make sure everyone was safe. There are currently around 450 asylum-seekers residing at the centre, including around 180 children.

While condemning all forms of violence and vandalism, we reiterate that detaining people, including children, for prolonged periods has a detrimental effect on mental and physical wellbeing. The substandard conditions in the centres contribute to the feeling of frustration among asylum-seekers, many of whom arrived in Malta after having experienced inhumane treatment when fleeing their country and on their journey. Detention of asylum-seekers in a manner that is not within strict legal basis needs to be addressed as a matter of priority."

See: 20 arrests after large fire at Marsa migrants centre (Times of Malta, link): "Hundreds of people were evacuated from an initial reception centre in Marsa on Wednesday after a large fire broke out inside one of its dormitories. "

UK: MPs reject Labour's call to reinstate child refugee pledge (BBC News, link):

"The Commons has rejected an attempt by Labour to reinstate child refugee protection rights in the Brexit bill.

MPs voted 348 to 252 against the amendment, which would have guaranteed the right of unaccompanied child refugees to be reunited with family living in the UK after Brexit.

The pledge was included in a previous version of the Brexit bill, but was removed after the Tories' election win.

The government said it had "a proud record of helping vulnerable children.""

SPAIN-MOROCCO: Statement on the hot returns from the Chafarinas on 3 January: "a serious violation of human rights"

Yesterday morning, on 3 January 2020, a group of 42 migrant people, including 26 women and two children aged three and four, reached Congress Island in the Chafarinas archipelago. That same evening, the Guardia Civil enacted the summary return of the 42 migrants. On this occasion, the Spanish government allowed the hot return of vulnerable minors and women.

EU: Migration-related deaths: open access book provides "first interdisciplinary overview" of causes, dynamics and consequences

A new book that is freely-available online claims to offer the "first interdisciplinary overview" of the causes, dynamics and consequences of migration-related deaths, with eight chapters examining issues such as the collection and use of data; the process of mourning missing migrants; and the causes of border deaths.

MALTA: MV Lifeline captain conviction overturned on appeal (Malta Independent, link):

"MV Lifeline captain Claus Peter Reisch is a free man, after the Court of Criminal Appeal overturned his conviction for ship registration irregularities.

In May last year, Captain Claus Peter Reisch had been found guilty of not having his ship’s registration in order and was fined €10,000, with the court refusing the prosecution’s request to confiscate the vessel.

Reisch had been in charge of the vessel when it rescued 234 stranded migrants at sea in 2018. The rescue had caused an international dispute, with the Lifeline eventually being allowed to dock in Valletta, after which the rescued migrants were distributed amongst a number of EU countries.

Reisch had been charged with entering Maltese territorial waters without the necessary registration or licence."

MALTA: 24 arrests made in Safi migrants' centre protest (Times of Malta, link):

"The police made 24 arrests late on Monday after a violent protest by migrants at Safi Detention Centre.

The protest started at about 7.30pm, with several people banging on fences and trying to rush the gate.

Police said the migrants, many of them with hooded, also started removing stone slabs from their dorms, smashing them and throwing stones at the police.

The administrative offices were also damaged.

The police deployed reinforcements and a number of arrests were made.

No one was injured. "

Libya militias rake in millions in European migration funds: AP (Al Jazeera, link):

"When the European Union started funnelling millions of euros into Libya to slow the tide of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, the money came with EU promises to improve detention centres notorious for abuse and fight human trafficking.

That has not happened. Instead, the misery of migrants in Libya has spawned a thriving and highly lucrative web of businesses funded in part by the EU and enabled by the United Nations, an Associated Press investigation has found."

Italy Faces Complaint at UN Over ‘Abusive’ Libya Asylum Returns (The Globe Post, link):

"Campaigners filed a complaint with the United Nations on Wednesday against Italy over a teenage migrant who was sent back to Libya in 2018 along with other migrants, where he was shot, beaten, and subjected to forced labor.

The Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) lodged the case with the U.N. Human Rights Committee aiming to challenge the practice of E.U. coastal states like Italy engaging commercial ships to return vulnerable people to unsafe locations.

The NGO says it is the first case of its kind to target so-called privatized push-backs."

See: CASE: PRIVATISED MIGRANT ABUSE (Global Legal Action Network, link) and: Privatised Push-Back of the Nivin (Forensic Architecture, link)

December 2019

Brexit: Johnson condemned for dropping pledge to replace family reunion law (Guardian, link):

"Lawyers warn loss of reunion rights for unaccompanied refugee children will put them in danger.

The loss of family reunion rights for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children will leave them with “no options” except taking dangerous routes and using smugglers, charities in France and Greece are warning.

The prime minister, Boris Johnson, faced criticism after he told parliament he had dropped a promise to replace the EU law that allows child refugees stranded in Europe to reunite with family members in the UK after Brexit.

Clare Moseley, the director of Care4Calais, said the news was devastating for those working with young asylum-seekers."

Greece: Unaccompanied Children at Risk - Arriving Alone in Island Camp, They Face Insecurity, Neglect (HRW, link):

" Hundreds of unaccompanied children on the Greek island of Lesbos are exposed to inhuman and degrading living conditions, Human Rights Watch said today. Children, unable to secure a place in the overcrowded specialized accommodation for unaccompanied children, face unsanitary and insecure conditions sleeping rough, sometimes in the open, in other formal and informal parts of the camp on the island.

“Hundreds of lone children on Lesbos are left to fend for themselves, sleeping on mats and cardboard boxes, exposed to worsening and dangerous weather conditions,” said Eva Cossé, Greece researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Greek authorities need to urgently make sure these children are safe and cared for.”

PRESS RELEASE: Complaint filed with UN body over Italy’s role in privatised push-backs to Libya resulting in migrant abuse (pdf):

"Today (18/12/19), the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) filed a complaint against Italy with the UN Human Rights Committee on behalf of an individual whose journey from Libya was intercepted in the high seas by the Panamanian merchant vessel, the Nivin. The complaint is the first to tackle the phenomenon of “privatized push-backs”, whereby EU coastal States engage commercial ships to return refugees and other persons in need of protection back to unsafe locations in contravention of their human rights obligations.(...)

The case breaks new ground as it calls attention to the ways in which merchant vessels are being implicated in border violence. Seafarers are increasingly being compelled to take responsibility for migrants and make risky choices of their own – choices that may lead them to act illegally and result in deaths not to mention bearing the costs of imposing border control. GLAN’s legal action is part of a broader effort to highlight and reaffirm the responsibilities of states around migrant rescue and to reveal the human rights implications of privatizing their response."

Europe is home to a grave humanitarian crisis – but Brussels looks the other way (Guardian, link):

"In a Greek refugee camp, adults are being stabbed or raped, while children freeze. This suffering shames our continent.(...)

The lack of a proper processing system has created a state of dreadful limbo, where people live in horrendous conditions without an end in sight. Some have been waiting more than two years to receive news about their asylum application.(...)

How could I be proud to be European – or even worse, proud to be a European representative – when I am standing idly by while people are dying avoidably, right here in Europe? The very place that pledges to become a leader in digital technology is also the continent that allows people to starve and die only five hours from Brussels."

UN experts decry rise in migrant detentions in Greece (InfoMigrants, link):

"UN experts on arbitrary detention have urged the Greek government to make urgent changes to the detention of migrants, stressing that the country was in continuing violation of various international standards.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) presented its preliminary findings after visiting 20 detention-related facilities in Greece during the first two weeks of this month.

In the report, the delegation highlighted multiple areas of concern ranging from lacking access of detained asylum seekers to interpreters and legal help to inflationary use of detention to prison overcrowding and various other issues involving both the criminal justice system and migration."

See: Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: Preliminary Findings from its visit to Greece (2 - 13 December 2019) (UN, link)

EU: The “reliable neighbour” must recognise the rights of migrants, at last! (EuroMed Rights, link):

"On this 18 December 2019, International Migrants Day, EuroMed Rights joins the calls from several organisations of promotion and defence of human rights and asks the European Union (EU) and its Member States to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 18 December 1990.

To this day, 55 states have ratified the Convention. Neither a single European state nor countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean like Tunisia are part of this list.

The EU benefits economically from migration but refuses to recognise the rights that should be guaranteed to all migrants. The Convention does not add anything to the European or national protection instruments already in existence, but it clarifies the rights of migrant workers by reminding the fundamental rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

GREECE-TURKEY: Videos Show Apparent Illegal Pushback of Migrants (Der Spiegel, link):

"The Greek government has repeatedly denied carrying out illegal "pushbacks" at its land border with Turkey. No asylum seekers, Athens insists, have been forced back across the Evros River into Turkey without a fair asylum process -- even if numerous refugees been claiming otherwise for years.

Now, videos provided to DER SPIEGEL and analyzed by the Forensic Architecture research collective, show for the first time what appear to be exactly these kinds of pushbacks taking place on the Evros. Six active and former police officers and soldiers have also independently told DER SPIEGEL that pushbacks are systematically carried out on the Evros."

Migrant arrivals from Turkey to Europe nearly double in 2019 (DW, link):

"According to a confidential EU report, 70,000 migrants have crossed from Turkey to the EU this year. The numbers raise questions about whether a EU-Turkey refugee deal is unravelling.

The number of migrants and refugees crossing from Turkey to Europe has nearly doubled this year compared to last, according to a confidential EU report published by German media.

From January to the middle of December, 70,002 migrants reached the European Union from Turkey, representing a jump of 46% compared to the same period in 2018, Die Welt reported on Tuesday."

Greece Under Water with Unceasing Refugee, Migrant Arrivals (The National Herald, link):

"ATHENS – Mild late autumn weather has led to a constant stream of refugees and migrants being sent to Greek islands from Turkey, where they had gone fleeing war and strife in their homeland, sent by human traffickers being allowed to operate during an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the European Union.

They are coming, wrote The Guardian’s Helena Smith, “sometimes en masse, sometimes alone … in rickety boats carrying men, women and children looking for a freedom they hope Europe will offer.”"

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