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21st year reporting on civil liberties and the state in the European Union (updated 21.5.19)  Editor: Tony Bunyan  Bookmark and Share

May 2019

EU elections 2019: Where do parties stand on migration? (euractiv, link):

"Although irregular arrivals in Europe are at their lowest level in five years, migration remains one of the top priorities for European citizens in the upcoming EU election. EURACTIV has looked into the European parties’ proposals on the matter."

ECHR: Italian Government must provide temporary accommodation for Roma children and their parents evicted from a settlement (pdf):

"On 5 April 2019 the Mayor of Giugliano issued Decree no. 29, ordering that all the settlement’s inhabitants be evicted for reasons of public health and safety. That order was carried out on 10 May. The applicants currently live with their families in an improvised campsite in an industrial area outside Giugliano.(...)

had been rehoused, the Court decided to apply an interim measure indicating to the Italian Government that it should provide temporary accommodation for the minors involved and their parents, without separating them."

Swiss vote to tighten gun laws and stay in Schengen (euractiv, link):

"While not an EU member, Switzerland is bound to the bloc through an array of intricately connected bilateral agreements.

Bern had cautioned that a “No” vote would lead to Switzerland’s exclusion from the border-free Schengen travel region and also the Dublin accords regulating Europe’s asylum-seeking process.

This would have far-reaching consequences for security, asylum and even tourism, and would cost the country “several billion Swiss francs each year,” it said."

Council of Europe Foreign Affairs Ministers recall rights and duties of member states, define priority areas for future action (link) and Council of Europe publishes Annual Statistics on Probation (link):

"The number of persons in Europe subject to community sanctions and measures (CSM) — usually known as alternatives to imprisonment - under the supervision of probation agencies is increasing, according to the Council of Europe annual SPACE II survey, published today, whilst at the same time the prison population is falling. (...)

On 31 January 2018 there were 1,810,357 people in Europe under the supervision of the 41 probation agencies participating in the survey, which represents an overall probation population rate of 169 probationers per 100,000 inhabitants."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (14-20.5.19) including:

UK: Police take legal action against former officer who had child with activist (The Guardian, link):

"Police chiefs are taking legal action against one of their former undercover officers who fathered a child during his covert infiltration of leftwing groups and then abandoned him.

The son of the former officer is already suing the Metropolitan police alleging that he has suffered psychiatric damage after discovering at the age of 26 that his father was not a radical protester he claimed to be, but was instead a police spy.

Now it has emerged that the Met is seeking to make Bob Lambert, the former undercover officer, also defend the legal claim that his son has launched."

MALTA: Two soldiers arrested for killing Hal Far migrant 'because he was black' (Times of Malta, link):

"Two soldiers are believed to be behind the drive-by murder of a migrant in a shooting which left two other men injured in Hal-Far last month.

...The killing is believed to be the first racially-motivated murder in Malta, with sources close to the investigation saying that one of the accused had admitted to targeting the migrants “just because they were black".

...Ivorian national Lassana Cisse was killed on April 6 in the drive-by shooting in Triq il-Gebel in an incident that sparked shock among the migrant community.

Two other migrants - a 27-year-old from Guinea and a 28-year-old from Gambia - were injured in the attack, after sustaining gunshot wounds."

UK: Police chief says Extinction Rebellion protesters will be arrested 'very, very fast' and suggests officers were not assertive enough last time (The Independent, link):

"The Metropolitan Police has said officers will be "more assertive" dealing with future protests by climate change activists Extinction Rebellion (XR), who last month staged demonstrations at a number of iconic London sites.

Cressida Dick, the Met's commissioner, told the London Assembly police and crime committee officers were unprepared for the "very new" type of protest, which saw thousands descend on the capital and occupy for 11 days some of the capital's busiest roads.

...She revealed officers made more than 1,200 arrests during the protests, which begun on 15 April at Oxford Circus, Marble Arch, Piccadilly Circus, Waterloo Bridge and Parliament Square."

EU Justice Scoreboard 2019: results show the continuing need to protect judicial independence (European Commission press release, pdf):

"Today, the European Commission publishes the 2019 EU Justice Scoreboard, which gives a comparative overview of the independence, quality and efficiency of justice systems in EU Member States.

It provides national authorities with information to help them improve their justice systems. The results are mixed and show relative improvements with regard to the efficiency of justice systems and the quality of justice. At the same time, the Scoreboard shows there are growing challenges with regard to the perception of judicial independence.

...One of the new elements of the 2019 EU Justice Scoreboard is that it provides an overview of disciplinary regimes regarding judges in national justice systems and safeguards in place to prevent political control of judicial decisions. The Scoreboard also presents the management of powers over national prosecution services justice systems, including the appointment and dismissal of prosecutors, which are key indicators for the independence of a prosecution service."

See: The 2019 EU Justice Scoreboard (pdf)

BELGIUM: Unprecedented police action against Roma Travellers community in Belgium (ERGO Network, link):

"A huge police action took place in Belgium in the morning of 7 May resulting in a massive arrest of Belgian Roma Travellers accused of trafficking of illegally obtained vehicles. The last action of this kind took place during the Second World War when 351 Roma Travellers from Belgium were transported to Auschwitz Birkenau. Today we see again a targeted action of the federal police towards the entire Roma Travellers community in Belgium.

We highly appreciate the work done by the police to tackle criminals in our society. This step was needed as we all are citizens of Belgium and we are responsible and stand as equals before the justice system as Belgian citizens. At the same time, we have concerns with the way these massive arrests have been conducted and we will allow ourselves to be critical towards the way justice is delivered."

See also: Book: Dimensions of Antigypsyism in Europe (European Network Against Racism, link)

SCOTLAND: Snooping fears over police seizing a hundred phones a day (The Ferret, link):

"Police Scotland has admitted seizing more than a hundred mobile phones a day, amid mounting calls for ministers to clarify the rules that protect citizens from police snooping.

Police management has been under scrutiny by the Scottish Parliament over the seizure and subsequent forensic analysis of mobile phones, tablets and computers.

MSPs and human rights groups have raised concerns that the police may be overstepping their legal powers when taking devices and searching them, breaching people’s privacy."

UK: Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration: An inspection of the Home Office's approach to Illegal Working, August-December 2018 (pdf):

"This report makes 6 recommendations. The majority focus on improving the mechanics of illegal working compliance and enforcement but, while important and necessary, these are not enough by themselves to answer the criticism that the Home Office’s efforts are not really working, and may have had the unintended consequence of enabling exploitation and discrimination by some employers.

My first 2 recommendations are pivotal to changing this. The Home Office needs to publish an updated (post-Windrush) strategy and Action Plan for tackling illegal working, supported by clear external and internal communications to ensure maximum buy-in cross-government, by employers and representative organisations, by the general public, and within the Home Office itself as soon as possible. It also needs to capture, analyse and report the quantitative and qualitative data and information that demonstrates the strategy and actions are not just effective in reducing illegal working and tackling non-compliant employers but are also sensitive to and deal appropriately with instances of exploitation and abuse."

UK: Sajid Javid announces overhaul of espionage and treason laws (The Guardian, link):

"Hostile state actors – spies, assassins or hackers directed by the government of another country – are to be targeted by refreshed espionage and treason laws, the home secretary has announced.

In a speech to security officials in central London, Sajid Javid revealed plans to publish a new espionage bill to tackle increased hostile state activity from countries including but not limited to Russia.

Javid said officials would also examine treason laws to see whether the legislation could be updated to include British nationals who operate on behalf of a hostile nation."

See: Home Secretary speech on keeping our country safe (pdf)

UK: Homeless man jailed for 20 weeks for sitting on the ground 'without reasonable excuse' (Somerset County Gazette, link):

" A HOMELESS Taunton man has been jailed for 20 weeks for sitting on the ground "without reasonable excuse".

Haydon Mark Baker, 33, who was staying at a homeless hostel at the time, pleaded guilty to a total of three similar offences when he appeared at Taunton Magistrates' Court last week.

He admitted sitting on the ground, which he was banned from doing under a Criminal Behaviour Order, outside Greggs, in North Street, on April 28; outside tReds, in East Street, on May 2; and outside McDonald's, in East Street, on May 5.

He was sent down for 20 weeks (concurrent) on each count, which were contrary to the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

He was also ordered to pay a £115 victim surcharge, but there was no order for costs due to lack of means. "

SWITZERLAND: No symbolic pardon for anti-fascist protestors in Geneva (swissinfo.ch, link):

"Parliament has refused to clear the name of seven people found guilty of rioting nearly 90 years ago. The Swiss militia army opened fire on civilians protesting against a meeting of fascists in the city of Geneva in 1932.

“One shot, aim low, fire!” was the order given by first lieutenant Raymond Burnat to his troops, called in to stop a demonstration by militant left-wing protestors rallying in the Plainpalais neighbourhood of Geneva. The shooting lasted all but 12 seconds (see video below) and left 13 people dead and 65 others injured on November 9, 1932.

The bloody incident occurred when left-wing demonstrators, led by the leader of the local Social Democratic Party, Léon Nicole, took to the streets to protest against a rally of supporters of the far-right politician, Georges Oltramare.

Concerned about a wave of public unrest, the government of canton Geneva asked for support from the Swiss army, to maintain public order."

Salvini fumes at EU court ruling on refugee returns (euractiv, link):

"Italy’s hardline deputy prime minister reiterated his call to change the EU in reaction to a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that refugees cannot be deported if their life or freedom is at risk in their home countries."

EU: Council discussing yet another small step towards full, open, democratic decision-making - ten years after the Lisbon Treaty - plus the Council's Annual Report on access to documents 2018

In its judgment the Court of Justice decided on 22 March 2018 in the
De Capitani judgment that access should be given to 4-column documents which set out of the state of play in secret trilogue meetings between the Council and the European Parliament as they formed an integral part of the legislative procedure even where negotiations are ongoing, should in principle be granted.

On 26 March 2019 the General Secretariat (GSC) of the Council set out its response: Legislative transparency (LIMITE doc no: 7888-19, pdf).

 Privacy International Wins Historic Victory at UK Supreme Court (link):

"Today, after a five year battle with the UK government, Privacy International has won at the UK Supreme Court. The UK Supreme Court has ruled that the Investigatory Powers Tribunal’s (IPT) decisions are subject to judicial review in the High Court. The Supreme Court's judgment is a major endorsement and affirmation of the rule of law in the UK. The decision guarantees that when the IPT gets the law wrong, its mistakes can be corrected."

Modern Merchants of Death: The NSO Group, Spyware and Human Rights (/intpolicydigest.org, link):

"Arms manufacturers of old and many of the current stable did not care much where their products went. The profit incentive often came before the patriotic one and led to such dark suspicions as those voiced by the Nye Committee in the 1930s. Known formally as the Special Committee on Investigation of the Munitions Industry, the US Senate Committee, chaired by US Senator Gerald Nye (R-ND) supplies a distant echo on the nature of armaments and their influence."

REVEALED: UK propaganda unit has secret plans to target French Muslims ((Middle East Eye, link):

"Government contract requirements seen by Middle East Eye show that France is among countries targeted by Home Office’s Research, Information and Communications Unit.

A shadowy UK government propaganda unit that privately declares that it works to “effect behavioural and attitudinal change” among British Muslims has drawn up plans to begin operating in France.

The Research, Information and Communications Unit (RICU), which is based at the Home Office in London, generates films, social media, websites, leaflets and news stories that are intended to influence public opinion while concealing the British government's role in their creation."

MI5 slapped on the wrist for 'serious' surveillance data breach (The Register, link):

"Auditors poked around for a week after too many Peeping Toms had a trawl.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has confessed to Parliament that MI5 bungled the security of "certain technology environments used to store and analyse data," including that of ordinary Britons spied on by the agency.

In a lengthy Parliamentary statement made last week, Javid obliquely admitted that spies had allowed more people to help themselves to its treasure troves of data on British citizens than was legally allowed."

Upload filters: Europol creates facts (link):

"The planned EU Regulation on the removal of „terrorist content online“ has no longer made it through the legislative process; in autumn the newly elected parliament will decide on it. The governments hope that the MEPs will then vote in favour of tightening up the legislation."

Romania’s Schengen perspective in jeopardy over rule of law (euractiv, link):

"The European Commission said on Monday (13 May) that Romania is close to being hit with Article 7 of the EU treaties, the heaviest punishment for a member state deviating from rule of law fundamentals. Losing the chance to join the Schengen zone any time soon would be one of the consequences.

The Commission hardly waited for the end of the Sibiu summit to send its warning letter to the Romanian authorities on Friday (10 May). This was confirmed by Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas on Monday.

He said the letter had been sent to the Romanian president, prime minister and the presidents of both chambers of the parliament, and that the main concerns regarded judicial independence and the effective fight against corruption, including the protection of the financial interests of the EU."

Government access to airline PNR data challenged in German courts (Papers Please!, link):

"Complaints filed today in German courts challenge government access to and use and retention of Passenger Name Record data (commercial airline reservation records) as a violation of fundamental rights guaranteed by both European Union and German law.(...)

So far as we know, these are the first lawsuits anywhere in the world to challenge the legality of government demands for access to PNR data or other travel records. (...)

The lead plaintiff in the case filed in German administrative court in Wiesbaden, Emilio De Capitani, is a retired former director of the staff of the LIBE (civil liberties) committee of the European Parliament.(...)

Mr. De Capitani plans to fly from Brussels to Berlin for a meeting of GFF in November 2019. He has purchased tickets and informed the airline that he does not want PNR data pertaining to his travel to be made available to government agencies

In response, the airline has told Mr. De Capitani that regardless of his preferences, the airline will provide government agencies in Germany "

He commented: "We need to rein in mass surveillance of flight passengers in the EU. Together with @freiheitsrechte I am going to court in Germany to stop intransparent algorithms defining who is dangerous and who isn't."

See: Complaint and Application for a Temporary Injunction (pdf)

Council of the European Union: Interoperability between EU information systems: Council adopts regulations (link):

"Today, the Council adopted two regulations establishing a framework for interoperability between EU information systems in the area of justice and home affairs. Easier information sharing will considerably improve security in the EU, allow for more efficient checks at external borders, improve detection of multiple identities and help prevent and combat illegal migration. All this while safeguarding fundamental rights."

European Parliament: Study: The impact of the UK’s withdrawal on the institutional set-up and political dynamics within the EU (pdf):

"examines the impact of Brexit on the institutional balance within the Council and European Parliament, on the interinstitutional balance and on the necessity of Treaty changes, and delineates constitutional limits on the participation of non-Member States in EU policies."

WhatsApp discovers 'targeted' surveillance attack (BBC link):

"Hackers were able to remotely install surveillance software on phones and other devices using a major vulnerability in messaging app WhatsApp, it has been confirmed.

WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, said the attack targeted a "select number" of users, and was orchestrated by "an advanced cyber actor". A fix was rolled out on Friday.

The attack was developed by Israeli security firm NSO Group, according to a report in the Financial Times."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (30.4-13.5.19) including:

SCOTLAND: Political Undercover Policing in Scotland – report (Public Interest Law Centre, link):

"Today, the Scottish Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (SCOPS) release their report Political Undercover Policing – Scotland.’ There is a clear need for the Justice Secretary in Scotland – Humza Yousaf MSP – to urgently review the evidence presented in this report and to order an independent and transparent public inquiry into undercover political policing in Scotland.

On 16th July 2015 Theresa May, then Home Secretary, announced a public inquiry into undercover policing. This announcement followed revelations that police officers spied on political campaigns and in some cases de-railed them. The officers had intimate relationships with women, fathered children, and in some cases acted as agent provocateurs.

Undercover political policing in Scotland is extensively documented in the attached report – Political Undercover Policing in Scotland –this was commissioned for the case we brought on behalf of our client Tilly Gifford. The report has now been published through the Scottish Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (SCOPS). You can view that report here."

See: Political Undercover Policing in Scotland: The facts about spycops in Scotland & the questions that remain unanswered (link to pdf)

NORTHERN IRELAND: MI5 report on RUC Special Branch to remain secret (Irish Times, link):

"An MI5 report on policing compiled at the height of the Troubles will remain secret nearly half a century after it was written, Britain’s freedom of information watchdog has ruled.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said police in the North do not have to disclose the so-called Morton report, which recommended a shake-up of RUC Special Branch in 1973.

In reaching its verdict, however, the ICO confirmed for the first time how significant the report could be for understanding the history of policing in the Troubles."

UK: Private jails more violent than public ones, data analysis shows (The Guardian, link):

"Private prisons are more violent than public jails, according to data analysis that raises questions over the government’s plans to pursue its prisons-for-profit model.

In the year to September 2018, there were 156 more assaults per 1,000 prisoners in private adult prisons in England and Wales than in their publicly run counterparts."

EU assists Ukraine with drafting its next Integrated Border Management strategy (Eastern Partnership Panel, link):

"European experts in Integrated Border Management (IBM) attended Kyiv, Ukraine for the first-ever joint event organised by the European Union Advisory Mission (EUAM) and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex).

The event was dedicated to supporting the Ukrainian institutions that are currently drafting the country’s national IBM strategy for 2020-25.

Frontex is based in Warsaw, and like EUAM, it has previously supported Ukraine in aligning its border management techniques with EU standards."

Council of the European Union: Counter Terrorism: EU threat assessment in the field of counterterrorism (LIMITE doc no: 8127-19, pdf)

"In line with the agreed way forward, the Presidency drew up the current document on the basis of the EU INTCEN sixth monthly Islamist terrorist threat assessment and EUROPOL's report."

And Report to the European Parliament and national Parliaments on the proceedings of the Standing Committee on operational cooperation on internal security (COSI) for the period July 2017 - December 2018 (Council doc no: 7500-19, pdf);

"The Presidency of the Council has submitted to the Council the annexed report on the proceedings of the Standing Committee on operational cooperation on internal security (COSI) for the period July 2017 - December 20181.

In accordance with Article 71 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and Article 6(2) of the Council Decision establishing the Standing Committee on operational cooperation on internal security (COSI), the Council hereby transmits the said report to the national Parliaments."

PRESS RELEASE: Mytilene, Greece: Peaceful demonstration and the human right to freedom of assembly prevails

10 May 2019

"Yesterday, 9 April 2019, in the Misdemeanours Court of Mytilene, the 110 on trial for resistance against authorities, rioting, and illegal occupation of public property were found not-guilty of all charges against them.

The charges were brought last year, after a peaceful sit-in of approximately 180 refugees took place in a small part of Sappho Square in the centre of Mytilene, Lesvos, between April 17- 23, 2018, in protest against poor living conditions in Moria Camp, lack of medical care and access to health services, imprisonment on the island and the long delay in their asylum process. The trigger of the mobilisation was the hospitalisation and death of an Afghan asylum seeker with serious health problems."

Is police use of facial recognition technology lawless and racist? (/lacuna.org.uk, link):

"Over the last four years police have been trialling facial recognition technology across England and Wales, but critics claim it’s more than 90% inaccurate and studies of similar software found it to be racially biased. So why are police continuing to use it?"

EU heads adopt vague declaration on future of Europe (euractiv, link):

"Heads of state and government from the EU-27 signed off on broad-brush ‘ten commitments’ for Europe’s next five years on Thursday (9 May), as they adopted a vague Sibiu Declaration during the opening stages of an informal summit dedicated to the bloc’s future."

EU: Frontex gets ready to deploy to the Balkans

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, is preparing to deploy officers to Albania at the end of May for an operation at the Greek-Albanian border, despite a drop in the number of illegal border-crossings detected by the agency last year.

An operational plan is in the works and a recently-published tender shows that the agency hopes to deploy five "full furnished mobile offices" to the country for one year. Frontex also plans to deploy similar offices for operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Serbia.

UK: Black people ‘40 times more likely’ to be stopped and searched in UK (The Guardian, link):

"Black people in England and Wales are 40 times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched under controversial powers that home secretary Sajid Javid recently made it easier for officers to use.

The analysis is based on Home Office internal data, which means Javid is likely to have known of the discriminatory impact when he gave the police greater powers last month to use “section 60” checks. The power allows officers to search anyone in a defined area for a limited period if serious violence is anticipated.

Last week, Cressida Dick, head of the Metropolitan police, launched a defence of stop and search, arguing it had reduced the murder rate in the capital by a quarter over the past year."

New EU laws on e-evidence are being negotiated – but what about human rights? (Fair Trials, link):

"In the final weeks of the European Parliament, the LIBE Committee has produced a new working document on the Proposal for a Regulation on European Production and Preservation Orders for electronic evidence in criminal matters.

The purpose of the working paper was to address the issue of the enforcement of European Production Orders, and European Preservation Orders, as well as consider possible remedies and safeguards in their use. The report reflects recommendations made by Fair Trials.

Increased efficiency in cross-border electronic data exchange could help to protect fair trial rights and serve the interests of the defence as well as victims. However, benefits will only be possible if key safeguards are incorporated into the new mechanisms. The new laws are a key opportunity to set high standards and set an example in upholding the fairness of criminal proceedings."

Montenegro jails anti-Nato coup plotters (EUobserver, link):

"Two Russian men, said to be intelligence officers, were jailed for 14 and 15 years, and two pro-Russian opposition politicians were jailed for five years, by a court in Montenegro on Thursday for their role in a failed coup in 2016 designed to stop the now Nato member from joining the Western alliance. Ten others, including several Serb nationals, a Montenegrin police chief, and an anti-Nato activist were also jailed."

GREECE: Trial of Sapfous 122 – Today in Mytilene (Legal Centre Lesvos, link):

"Today 122 people are on trial in Mytilene, Lesvos, after being arrested in the early morning of 23 April 2018. They are charged with resisting arrest, rioting, and illegal occupation of public property. If convicted they could be imprisoned for two years. In the days prior to their arrest last year, 100-200 refugees and migrants who had been living in the notorious Moria Refugee Camp in Lesvos, gathered in Sapfous Square, the main square in town, to protest lack of access to medical care, horrible conditions, and delayed asylum procedures that kept them prisoners on the island.

After less than a week of their peaceful protest, on the night of 22 April 2018, they were attacked by a far-right mob. In this organized violent attack, roughly 200 fascists attacked the refugees and migrants, as well as those standing in solidarity with them, with projectiles. While 26 people are now facing criminal charges related to the attack against the migrants, during the night not a single attacker was arrested. Only the 122 people facing trial today were arrested, after facing a night of racially motivated violence against them, which left many people, including migrants, journalists, and children injured."

EU: Construction of the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS): progress reports from Frontex and Europol

Frontex and Europol have submitted reports to the European Parliament and the Council of the EU outlining progress in the construction of the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), a 'travel permission' system akin to the US ESTA, the legislation for which was approved in September 2018.

UK: Construction firms in lawsuit over £55m payout to blacklisted trade unionists (The Guardian, link):

"Major construction firms are embroiled in a legal dispute over a multimillion-pound compensation bill that has been paid to more than 1,100 blacklisted trade unionists.

The workers won payouts totalling £55m after they discovered that construction firms had unlawfully compiled confidential files on their political and employment activities, preventing them from getting jobs.

Eight firms, including Sir Robert McAlpine and Balfour Beatty, have so far paid the compensation, and issued an “unreserved and sincere” apology, to the blacklisted workers. Now the eight companies are pursuing legal action to force another firm, Amec Foster Wheeler, to make a contribution to the compensation bill, arguing that the blacklisting was organised across the construction industry."

French police watchdog to investigate 'truncheon rape' video (The Local, link):

"French investigators are looking at several videos that appear to show police violence during May Day demonstrations in Paris, including one showing an officer push his truncheon inside the trousers of an arrested man.

The man attacked with a telescopic truncheon had been plucked from a crowd of protesters, many of whom were chanting "everyone hates the police".

Paris police chiefs have asked the IGPN, the body that investigates police abuses, to investigate the incident, which happened when the arrested man was pinned down by other officers.

See: a prior allegation: French enquiry finds ‘insufficient proof’ police raped young man with truncheon (France 24, link)

IRELAND: Lawyers or prisoners ‘could launch legal action’ over reports of prison surveillance (Irish Legal News, link):

"Irish lawyers and prisoners could take legal action over reports of covert surveillance in Irish prisons, human rights lawyer Kevin Winters has warned.

The Inspector of Prisons, Patricia Gilheaney, was asked by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan last November to examine allegations that private conversations between solicitors and prisoners were covertly monitored by gardaí.

Ms Gilheaney’s preliminary findings on the matter have not been published, but Mr Flanagan said last week that he was concerned by the contents of her report."

European Parliament Analysis: Robots in healthcare: a solution or a problem? (pdf):

"The first part of the workshop focused on the practical application of AI and robots in healthcare, while the second part examined the ethical implications and responsibilities of AI and robotic based technologies in healthcare."

Turkey holds thousands in solitary in Erdogan's prisons (DW, link):

"In Turkey, thousands of prisoners are being held in solitary confinement. Conditions are so harsh that some prisoners consider dying by suicide. Turkey's government has offered no comment."

Statewatch Observatory: Creation of a centralised Justice & Home Affairs database (Updated 5 May 2019)

UK: Britons most positive in Europe on benefits of immigration - Findings contradict assumption UK is more hostile than European neighbours (Guardian, link):

"British people are more persuaded of the benefits of immigration than any other major European nation, according to a global survey, which has also found that almost half of Britons think immigrants are either positive or neutral for the country."

UK: Immigration officers accused of racial profiling as they stop thousands of British citizens (thebureauinvestigates.com, link):

"British citizens are stopped by immigration officers ten times a day on average, new data reveals, prompting fresh accusations people are being targeted because of their skin colour.

An investigation by the Bristol Cable and Bureau of Investigative Journalism shows nearly a fifth of all people stopped and asked to prove their immigration status are British - a proportion which has remained unchanged for almost seven years."

EU criminal law could cover "crimes relating to artificial intelligence"

The Member States have been discussing future possibilities for EU criminal law (Council document 7910/19, pdf), and one issue to be considered is "crimes relating to artifical intelligence, subject to further defining the issue at stake."

EU: The human rights monitoring ship Mare Liberum is being prevented from leaving port

Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transportation (Bundesverkehrsministeriums) sent an order of suspension for the ship Mare Liberum to the German association of traffic and transportation (Berufsgenossenschaft Verkehr)--which handles the registration, licenses and flags for ships--to further scrutinize civil rescue vessels in the Mediterranean Sea.

UK: Undercover police to have fake identities hidden at inquiry (The Guardian, link):

"The retired judge leading a public inquiry into the conduct of undercover officers who infiltrated political groups has granted anonymity to two-thirds of the police spies who requested it.

Sir John Mitting is heading the inquiry examining how undercover police officers spied on more than 1,000 political groups since 1968, following revelations of misconduct.

An analysis by the Guardian shows that 78 undercover officers applied to have their fake identities concealed while their evidence is heard at the inquiry, and Mitting has ruled in their favour in 50 cases. They will give evidence in private or with their identities hidden."

UK: New figures reveal postcode lottery in imprisonment rates for women in England and Wales (Prison Reform Trust, link):

"The average imprisonment rate for women in England is 30 per 100,000, and in Wales 48 per 100,000.

Cleveland has the highest imprisonment rate in England and Wales at 67 women per 100,000 head of population. Between 2012 and 2017 this region saw an increase of 22% in the use of immediate imprisonment for women.

By contrast, Greater Manchester, where there is a co-ordinated strategy involving the local authority, police diversion, a problem solving court and women’s support services, has an imprisonment rate of 25 women per 100,000 head of population. Between 2012 and 2017 it saw a decrease of 33% in the use of immediate imprisonment for women."

In borderless Europe, security chiefs unite against jihadist threat (Yahoo! News, link):

"The Hague (AFP) - With the jihadists behind the bloodshed in Paris and Brussels able to criss-cross European borders at will, anti-terror chiefs have been forced to come together to seek a common response to a global threat.

Experts say the deeper security cooperation was a watershed moment of the European Parliament term that winds up in May, when new elections for the legislative body will be held.

The transformation is most evident at the Dutch headquarters of Europol, where the patchwork of information exchanges between individual EU states has been replaced with a more streamlined multilateral sharing system."

UK: ‘Reclaim Citizenship To Reclaim Our Human Rights’: Groups Call For End To Hostile Environment Policy (Rights Info, link):

"Charities, human rights organisations and academics are calling on the British public to join the fight to restore dignity to migrants trying to access services in the UK.

Groups such as Medact, Migrants Organise, Docs Not Cops, Project 17 and Liberty have teamed up to criticise the failures of the current government’s “hostile environment policy” to ensure that the human rights of undocumented migrants remain protected."


April 2019

EU: Common European Asylum System: deadlock in the Council as "frontline" Member States oppose mandatory "border procedures"

Council discussions on controversial proposals for dealing with asylum applications at the external borders of the EU hit a wall recently, with "a large majority" of Member States who favour tougher measures facing opposition from those on the "frontline". Member States' diplomatic representatives were called upon to try to reach a resolution, but the Council is remaining tight-lipped on the outcome of those discussions.

Rendition: UK spent £11m of public money fighting Libya rendition case (Guardian, link):

"Figures show vast sums spent resisting apology demands over rendition of Libyan dissidents. The government spent more than £11m of public funds resisting demands for an apology, compensation and prosecutions over MI6’s 2004 rendition of the Libyan dissident Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his wife, Fatima Boudchar.

The colossal sum involved has been revealed for the first time through a freedom of information request that exposes the vast amounts ministers and official were prepared to pay out at a time when legal aid has been severely restricted."

Slovak top court rejects bid to ban far-right party (euractiv, link):

"Slovakia’s Supreme Court on Monday (29 April) ruled against banning a far-right anti-immigrant, anti-Roma party currently polling at just over 10%, saying prosecutors had not produced enough evidence against them.

The Kotleba-People’s Party Our Slovakia (LSNS), which campaigns against letting migrants into the country, entered the 150-member parliament for the first time in March 2016. It currently has 13 seats.

The proposed ban presented by chief prosecutor Jaromir Ciznar was “insufficiently substantiated”, Jana Zemkova told reporters, reading from the court decision."

Germany faces 'civil war' threat from rising far-right groups (Daily Sabah, link):

"The far-right group "Pro-Chemnitz" stages a protest, Chemnitz, Aug. 30, 2018.

German far-right extremists have been training for civil war and a collapse of the state, a secret report by the country's domestic security agency revealed, citing the rising risk of a right-wing terror threat."

'Political predators preying on migration crisis,' says EU top job candidate Timmermans (Euronews, link):

"Frans Timmermans, the socialist candidate for the EU's top job, told Euronews that political predators were taking advantage of the so-called migration crisis.

"The problem arises from the time in 2015 and 2016 when clearly we were not in control of the crisis. Since then we have taken steps to regain control of the crisis. We're not there yet but we're getting there," Timmermans said."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (16-29.4.19) including:

Julian Assange's legal battles have only just begun (CNN, link):

"London (CNN)He entered Ecuador's London embassy in 2012, lauded by some as a charismatic defender of truth and journalistic collaborator, fleeing what he claimed were the crosshairs of the United States.

Cut to almost seven years on, the extraordinary scenes of a disheveled Julian Assange dragged from his diplomatic sanctuary exposed the damaging impact of his time in self-imposed exile.

The 47-year-old WikiLeaks founder put his legal problems on hold during the 2,488 days he spent in the Ecuadorian Embassy. And now he's out, they are more complicated than ever."

UK: Launch of the National Mikey Powell Memorial Family Fund (link):

"The fund will to be the first permanent national resource of its kind for those affected by deaths in custody, making small grants available for families and their campaign groups across the UK to provide practical domestic assistance, to further the work of their own campaigns or to assist them in engaging in other local, regional or national campaigns, events and initiatives.

This fund will make a real difference for families and their campaign groups that need financial support during the often long struggles for justice lasting for decades in many cases."

New EU Directive on Whistleblower Protection (EU Law Analysis, link):

"With an overwhelming majority, the European Parliament on 16 April voted in favour of the new law to protect whistleblowers in the European Union. The Directive sets leading standards and has become a prime example of how a concerted effort by civil society – NGOs, trade unions, journalists, scholars, and whistleblowers – together with the European Parliament can lead to progressive legislation and enhance tools that safeguard the rule of law in Europe."

Detention, Insecurity, Rights Deprivation – The Legal Crackdown on Asylum Seekers in Germany (ECRE, link):

"On 17 April 2019 the German Government pushed ahead with the deprivation of rights of refugees with two laws – the so-called “Orderly Return Bill” and an amendment to the social welfare law for asylum seekers. The highly controversial “Orderly Return Bill” promoted by the Ministry of the Interior has now been passed by the cabinet meeting of the Government and will be discussed in parliament. The draft law is part of a recent wave of legal measures that represent a crackdown on asylum seekers. It provides for far-reaching changes which have been sharply criticised by civil society associations as they include the deprivation of rights, expansion of the use of detention, and withdrawal of social benefits. It also makes the status of recognised refugees more precarious, introduces a downgraded version of the “Duldung” (toleration) status, and targets people and organisations involved in refugee support."

IRELAND: Legislation to codify arrest, search and detention powers coming to Cabinet this year (Irish Legal News, link):

"Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan told a law conference this morning that he plans to bring legislative proposals to the Cabinet this year to codify powers of arrest, search and detention.

The legislation will also include statutory codes of practice to ensure full clarity and transparency in the exercise of coercive powers.

Mr Flanagan spoke at the opening session of the “Policing, Human Rights & Communities” conference hosted by the School of Law and Irish Centre for Human Rights in NUI Galway this morning."

See: A policing service for the future: Implementing the Report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland (pdf) and: The future of policing in Ireland (pdf)

FAR-RIGHT: Vox enters Congress for the first time but falls short of expectations (El País, link):

"The Spanish far-right party Vox was expected to make historic gains at the general election on Sunday but ended up walking away with a more moderate result: 10.3% of the vote and 24 seats in Congress. During the election campaign, images of Vox’s mass rallies fueled fears that the emerging group would make a deal with the conservative Popular Party (PP) and the center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) to form a government. Instead Vox will have to resign itself to being in opposition as the fifth-strongest political force in Spain.

...Support for Vox at this year’s election was more than 50 times greater than that seen at the 2016 polls. From having no congressional representation, the far-right party now has 24 deputies in Congress."

ECHR: Terrorism convict can be deported from France to Algeria without any risk of inhuman or degrading treatment, ECHR rules

The case concerns the applicant’s planned deportation to Algeria after he was convicted in France in 2015 for participating in acts of terrorism and was permanently banned from French territory.

The Court found that the general situation in Algeria as regards the treatment of individuals linked to terrorism did not in itself preclude the applicant’s deportation.

EU: Police press ahead with efforts to automate cross-border information-sharing

Police forces are moving ahead with plans to increasingly automate the sharing of personal data across EU states, according to documents recently shared within the Council of the EU.

EU lawmakers rubber-stamp European Defence Fund, give up parliamentary veto (EurActiv, link):

"MEPs signed-off a deal establishing the multi-billion European Defence Fund (EDF) on Thursday (18 April), giving up parliamentary oversight of the EU’s military subsidies programme.

According to plans, approved by EU lawmakers with 328 votes in favour, 231 against and 19 abstentions, the EDF is set to receive an estimated €13 billion in the EU’s next multi-annual financial framework (MFF) and will finance research projects.

However, the partial agreement does not yet include the final financial figures as the seven-year EU budget still needs to be approved by the next Parliament."

UK: Self-harm in detention centre up threefold in three years despite drop in population, report finds (The Independent, link):

"Self-harm among detainees in one of Britain’s largest immigration removal centres has surged threefold in the last three years despite a considerable drop in the population, the prisons watchdog has warned.

There were 65 incidents of self-harm recorded in Colnbrook detention centre during the six-month period to September 2018, compared with 20 in the same period in 2016, according to a report by the Prison Inspectorate."

See: HM Chief Inspector of Prisons: Report on an unannounced inspection of Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre (pdf) and: Action plan (pdf)

German Police launches „National Internet Referral Unit“ (Matthias Monroy, link):

"Europol has requested the removal of Internet content in almost 100,000 cases. The companies adressed are responding to a considerable extent. The German BKA has now also set up a contact office, which has sent almost 6,000 reports since its short existence and cooperates closely with Europol, also about „smuggling crime“.

...With the new department the German Government precedes the EU regulation for preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online. The legislative proposal was presented by the EU Commission last September, and after only a few months and thus at a rush, the EU Parliament agreed on its position last week. The aim is to adopt the regulation as quickly as possible after the election of the new EU-parliament."

MALTA: Media reports on foreign suspects show worrying trends, researchers say (Times of Malta, link):

"Reports on foreign suspects show “worrying trends”, making ex-plicit reference to the ethnicity of alleged perpetrators when they are foreigners, researchers said.

A National Media Report on media representation of suspects found media outlets consistently made explicit reference to the ethnicity and nationality of alleged perpetrators, particularly when they were not Maltese.

The report was carried out by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, organisation Fair Trials Europe, Human Rights House Zagreb Rights International Spain, the Vienna University and Aditus."

EU: National security and fundamental rights: new paper examines problems with definitions and the rule of law

The Council of Bars & Law Societies of Europe has issued a paper examining the protection of fundamental rights in the context of national security, focusing in particular on the way "national security" is legally defined.

GREECE: Racist Violence Recording Network: Annual Report 2018 (pdf):

"In 2018, the Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN) recorded an increase in incidents of racist violence, especially against refugees and migrants. This increase is linked to the political polarization at a global level regarding the reception of refugees and migrants, coupled with national and local factors shaping the situation in Greece. The reinforced presence of the far-right parties in Europe encourages the violent xenophobic groups that claim an increasing proportion of the public sphere. In view of the European elections, the more space is occupied by the far-right agenda and euro-scepticism, the more the far-right, neo-Nazi and extreme nationalist groups across Europe gain further strength and form alliances with each other or even compete in committing racist attacks."

UK: Home Office: Implementation plan for the joint review of forensics provision (April 2019, pdf):

"The Review was commissioned to evaluate the provision of forensic science to criminal investigations and criminal court proceedings in England and Wales, following Key Forensic Services’ entry into administration in January 2018 and persistent stakeholder concerns regarding quality.

The Review’s primary focus was the operation and management of the market, but Ministers and the Review team recognised that a broader set of issues have a significant impact on stakeholder’s confidence in the system’s ability to deliver high quality forensics into the CJS."

And see: Forensics Review: Review of the provision of forensic science to the criminal justice system in England and Wales (July 2018, pdf)

IRELAND: One country blocks the world on data privacy (Politico, link):

"Last May, Europe imposed new data privacy guidelines that carry the hopes of hundreds of millions of people around the world — including in the United States — to rein in abuses by big tech companies.

Almost a year later, it’s apparent that the new rules have a significant loophole: The designated lead regulator — the tiny nation of Ireland — has yet to bring an enforcement action against a big tech firm.

That’s not entirely surprising. Despite its vows to beef up its threadbare regulatory apparatus, Ireland has a long history of catering to the very companies it is supposed to oversee, having wooed top Silicon Valley firms to the Emerald Isle with promises of low taxes, open access to top officials, and help securing funds to build glittering new headquarters.

Now, data privacy experts and regulators in other countries are questioning Ireland’s commitment to policing imminent privacy concerns like Facebook’s reintroduction of facial recognition software and data-sharing with its recently purchased subsidiary WhatsApp, and Google’s sharing of information across its burgeoning number of platforms."

Libya: Detained refugees shot as clashes near Tripoli continue (Al Jazeera, link):

"Refugees and migrants trapped in a detention centre on the front line of conflict in Tripoli for weeks say they were shot at indiscriminately on Tuesday by fighters aligned with eastern forces advancing on Libya's capital.

At least 10 people were seriously wounded by gunfire, detainees said.

"Right now they are attacking the centre, shooting more people … They are shooting us directly," an Eritrean man told Al Jazeera through the messaging service WhatsApp."

And: Migrants in Libyan jail were reportedly seriously wounded in shooting: U.N. (Reuters, link)

Germany: Hundreds of open warrants for far-right suspects (DW, link):

"Hundreds of warrants seeking the arrest of suspects from the right-wing scene across Germany are still outstanding, the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) said Thursday.

By the end of September, 467 people had warrants out for their arrest. Theft, fraud, verbal insults and traffic offenses account for 82% of the criminal acts, according to a BKA statement. In some cases, suspects have multiple warrants out for their arrest."

Mass travel monitoring: 500 new posts for German Passenger Name Record system (Matthias Monroy, link):

"EU-wide surveillance of air travellers is gathering pace. In the first year, the German BKA manually inspected tens of thousands of passengers after the automated screening. The authorities ordered follow-up measures for 277 passengers. These include arrests, open or discreet checks.

German authorities continue to look for personnel to implement the retention of passenger data. Of the more than 500 posts planned for the new system, around one third are currently occupied. This was written by the German Federal Ministry of the Interior in response to questions on the EU Passenger Name Record (PNR) Directive."

EU: Legislative transparency within the Council (Council document 7888/19, LIMITE, 26 March 2019, pdf):

"The Council has started a reflection on legislative transparency, in the context of ongoing developments in other institutions, a large number of access requests, developments in the relevant case-law and technological evolutions such as the trilogue editor, as well as the report of the Ombudsman regarding the transparency of the Council legislative practices.

...Beyond the consideration that the existing access to documents rules may not be sufficient in light of today's context, it would be in the Council's interest to agree on a clear position in order to avoid being forced to react and adapt to decisions taken by other institutions. In addition, increasing coherence and consistency of practice would be beneficial for the good functioning of the Council as an institution.

Guidance from Coreper is therefore required on the way forward."

SPAIN: Ethnic profiling in Catalonia: for every police identity check on a Spanish national, there are seven checks on foreigners

Black or ethnic minority individuals or those with a foreign nationality are stopped more frequently by Catalan police officers than those who are white and/or have Spanish nationality, according to a recent report by the organisation Pareu de Parar-me (Stop Stopping Me).

Germany sets tougher rules for deporting migrants (AP, link):

"The German government has agreed on a set of rules aimed at making it harder for failed asylum seekers to avoid deportation.

The country’s top security official, Horst Seehofer, said Wednesday that the package agreed by the Cabinet focuses on people who have exhausted all legal avenues to obtain asylum.

Seehofer told reporters in Berlin that people who try to hide their true identity can be jailed and those who fail to replace lost travel documents may face fines.

Authorities will double to about 1,000 the number of prison places designated for deportees."

GERMANY: Investigation against activist artists dropped, but questions remain (DW, link):

"The 16-month criminal investigation against the artist collective Center for Political Beauty (Zentrum für Politische Schönheit, ZPS) has been suspended, Thuringian State Premier Bodo Ramelow announced on Monday.

The fact that the art group's director, Philipp Ruch, was under investigation for "forming a criminal organization" was revealed last week and the case obtained international media attention. The criminal investigation has been described as the first of its kind in Germany's postwar history, as the country's constitution, the Basic Law, guarantees freedom of artistic activity.

Even though the investigation has been dropped, the artists say the case has raised further questions they still want answered, ZPS spokesperson Tilda Rosenfeld told DW. What were the political motivations of the prosecutors who launched the investigation? Why did it go on for so long? And why didn't the federal government react to the unfounded proceedings, even though there is proof that it had been informed?"

EXCLUSIVE: Campaigners against Uighur oppression blacklisted on terrorism database (Middle East Eye, link):

"An internationally recognised advocacy group raising awareness about the repression of the Uighur minority in western China has been added to a terrorism blacklist used by many of the world’s biggest banks, Middle East Eye can reveal.

The Germany-based World Uighur Congress (WUC), which has advised the United Nations and the European Union, plans to sue the owner of the World-Check financial database after it used Chinese allegations to link the WUC to terrorism.

Dolkun Isa, the president of the WUC, and two other senior members of the organisation who were also added to the blacklist as individuals are also planning legal action."

‘I’m not racist, but …’ - Daniel Trilling reviews 'Whiteshift' by Eric Kaufman and 'National Populism' by Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin (London Review of Books, link):

"Kaufmann, Eatwell and Goodwin fail to see the danger in what they are proposing. Their arguments rest on the notion that there is a normal, reasonable amount of nationalism or ethnic preference that can be accommodated in order to keep majority-white populations happy, and that this settlement needn’t shade into racism and violence. They smooth over the differences in culture, history, class and political outlook that exist among people who might be categorised as white, and they are even less careful in discussing everyone else. They do not consider the ways in which the social uncertainty caused by globalisation is a worldwide phenomenon, and do not see that to retreat behind closed doors is the path to disaster. Worst of all, they close off any possibility that the prevailing order might be challenged by people coming together in their difference to work towards common goals. Unless we can move beyond arguments like theirs, sooner or later we will come to realise that the walls we build to defend ourselves are the walls of a prison."

Fighting in Libya will create huge number of refugees, PM warns (Guardian, link):

"Fayez al-Sarraj says Khalifa Haftar’s attack on Tripoli ‘will spread its cancer through Mediterranean

Hundreds of thousands of refugees could flee the fighting caused by Khalifa Haftar’s attempt to seize the Libyan capital, Tripoli, the prime minister of the country’s UN-recognised government has warned.(...)

There have been concerns that Libya could become a “new Syria”, with civil war leading to massive population displacement.(...)

“There are not only the 800,000 migrants potentially ready to leave, there would be Libyans fleeing this war",

EU pushes to link tracking databases - Proposal will make it harder to find ‘needle in the haystack,’ critics say (Politico, link):

"The European Union is about to become a lot safer — at least on paper.

Lawmakers are set to approve plans for an enormous new database that will collect biometric data on almost all non-EU citizens in Europe’s visa-free Schengen area. The database — merging previously separate systems tracking migration, travel and crime — will grant officials access to a person’s verified identity with a single fingerprint scan.

The question, say the plan’s critics, is whether it truly represents an improvement to safety — and whether it adequately takes into account concerns about civil liberties and privacy.".

The exceptional become the norm: Border controls: state of emergency becoming state of normality (euractiv, link);

"Germany, as well as other EU member states in the Schengen area, is extending the period of random border checks. The EU Commission is not pleased. EURACTIV’s media partner Der Tagesspiegel reports.

Actually, border checks should only be temporary. However, the deployment of the German Federal Police at the German-Austrian border, which began at the height of the refugee crisis in September 2015, has since been repeatedly extended."

ECHR: Police discriminated against Roma family by using ethnic profiling to justify raid on their home (pdf):

"In its committee judgment in the case the European Court of Human Rights unanimously held, that there had been:
- a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights as concerned the ill-treatment of the applicant family during the raid, and
- two violations of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with Article 3 because the raid had been racially motivated and the related investigation had been ineffective.

The Court found that there had been no justification for the disproportionate use of force during the raid on the applicant family’s home, which had left them with injuries requiring treatment in hospital. The applicants had been unarmed and had never been accused of any violent crime, while the four gendarmes who had raided their home had been highly trained in rapid intervention."

European Parliament: Personal data protection achievements during the legislative term 2014-2019: the role of the European Parliament (pdf):

"Considerable progress was made in safeguarding privacy during the legislative term 2014-2019 – most importantly, new EU data protection rules strengthening citizens’ rights and simplifying the rules for companies in the digital age took effect in May 2018."

On the other hand: Protection of EU external borders Achievements during the legislative term 2014-2019: the role of the European Parliament (pdf):

"Considerable progress was made regarding safeguarding the EU’s external borders during the legislative term 2014-2019 - most importantly after the migratory crisis of 2015 had made the deficiencies of the European common policy had become evident. (...)

EP has had mixed reactions to the development of external border management policy. It has broadly supported the upgraded organisational role of the EBCGA and the other relevant Union agencies, often calling for their role to be further enhanced as the EU grapples with the migration crisis in the Mediterranean"

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (9-15.4.19) including:

US Army terminal missile defense system is headed to Eastern Europe (Defense News, link):

"So far only the Pacific region and, more recently, the Middle East have seen operational deployments of the U.S. Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, but now it’s headed to Romania this summer, according to an April 11 U.S. European Command statement.

Questions have swirled for years on when, where and if THAAD would deploy to Europe, particularly as the situation on the eastern flank has heated up since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

The THAAD system, according to the USEUCOM statement, will deploy this summer “in support of NATO Ballistic Missile Defense” — in other words, it’s filling in for the operational Aegis Ashore missile defense system while it undergoes a “limited period of scheduled maintenance and updates.”"

UK: Britons going to terror hotspots face 10 years in jail under new laws (The Guardian, link):

"British citizens travelling to live in foreign terrorism hotspots could face up to 10 years in prison under controversial new laws.

The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 comes into force on Friday and creates a criminal offence of entering or remaining in a “designated area” overseas.

Ministers unveiled the measure last year as part of efforts to boost authorities’ ability to tackle the threat from so-called foreign fighters. The act allows the home secretary to designate an area, subject to parliamentary approval."

And see: Stricter laws to tackle terrorism come into force (government press release, pdf)

The U.S. Government's Indictment of Julian Assange poses grave threats to press freedom (The Intercept, link):

"The indictment of Julian Assange unsealed today by the Trump Justice Department poses grave threats to press freedoms, not only in the U.S. but around the world. The charging document (pdf) and accompanying extradition request from the U.S. government, used by the U.K. police to arrest Assange once Ecuador officially withdrew its asylum protection, seeks to criminalize numerous activities at the core of investigative journalism.

So much of what has been reported today about this indictment has been false. Two facts in particular have been utterly distorted by the DOJ and then misreported by numerous media organizations... The first crucial fact about the indictment is that its key allegation — that Assange did not merely receive classified documents from Chelsea Manning but tried to help her crack a password in order to cover her tracks — is not new...

The other key fact being widely misreported is that the indictment accuses Assange of trying to help Manning obtain access to document databases to which she had no valid access: i.e., hacking rather than journalism. But the indictment alleges no such thing."

EU: Open Letter to Members of the European Parliament “EU Defence Fund provisional agreement sets dangerous precedent against democratic functioning of the EU” (pdf):

"On Wednesday 17 April [note: now Thursday 18 April], you will be asked to approve the provisional agreement on the legislative proposal creating a European Defence Fund ( 2018/0254(COD) in the next EU budgetary cycle (MFF 2021-2027).

This agreement sets a dangerous precedent against the democratic functioning of the EU and, in particular, against the oversight role of the Parliament on EU programmes.

It is in your hands to close this Pandora’s box while there is still time. If not, it will pave the way for the EU to become merely a cash cow for profit-making companies and national short term interests, and the Parliament reduced to a rubber-stamping body.

This is not what EU citizens are expecting from you ahead of crucial elections, nor will it improve EU’s legitimacy to their eyes.

We urge you to oppose the adoption of this provisional agreement and let the next Parliament have the power to decide what to do with 13 billion Euros."

See also: What is the European Defence Fund? (ENAAT, pdf)

IRELAND: Plans to regulate private security enforcing court orders welcomed by civil rights group (Irish Legal News, link):

"Plans to regulate private security personnel employed to enforce court orders have been welcomed by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL).

The civil rights group told Irish Legal News that tensions over the conduct of security officials at evictions in Dublin last year illustrated the need for public oversight.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan yesterday secured agreement from his Government colleagues to bring forward draft amendments to the Private Security Services Act 2004 (as amended).

Bringing enforcement guards within the licensing remit of the Private Security Authority (PSA) was the key recommendation of an inter-departmental working group report presented to the Cabinet yesterday."

Three Steps Ahead, One Step Aside: The AG’s Opinion in the Commission v. Poland Case (verfassungsblog.de, link):

"On 11 April Advocate General Tanchev issued his long-awaited opinion in Case C-619/18 Commission v Poland concerning Polish measures (i) lowering the retirement age of the judges of the Supreme Court appointed to that court before 3 April 2018 and (ii) granting the President of Poland discretion to extend the active mandate of Supreme Court judges upon reaching the lowered retirement age. As AG Tanchev aptly noted, this case presented the Court with the opportunity to rule, for the first time within the context of infringement proceedings under Article 258 TFEU, on the compatibility of certain measures taken by a Member State concerning the organisation of its judicial system with Article 19(1) TEU in connection with Article 47 of the Charter (para 2 of the opinion).

UK-USA: Julian Assange faces US extradition after arrest at Ecuadorian embassy (Guardian, link):

"WikiLeaks founder’s removal from London embassy brings seven-year diplomatic stalemate to an end.

Julian Assange is facing extradition to the United States and up to five years in prison after he was forcibly dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy in London on Thursday, bringing an extraordinary seven-year diplomatic stalemate to an end."

EU: French anti-terrorist unit demands removal of adverts, books, US-government produced reports from web archives

France's Internet Referral Unit has been busy sending requests to the Internet Archive for the removal of hundreds of web pages, but the Archive has said there is a serious problem - none of the URLs in question contain terrorist propaganda.

The pages that the French unit wants the Internet Archive to remove include works from the American Libraries collection, old television adverts and programmes, the Smithsonian Libraries, television broadcasts of the US House of Representatives and even an academic paper entitled 'Spectrum Sharing in Cognitive Radio with Quantized Channel Information'.

As the Internet Archive has highlighted in a blog post, such requests pose a clear threat to freedom of expression and information.

Open Letter to Members of the European Parliament: “EU Defence Fund provisional agreement sets dangerous precedent against democratic functioning of the EU” (pdf):

"On Wednesday 17 April, you will be asked to approve the provisional agreement on the legislative proposal creating a European Defence Fund ( 2018/0254(COD) in the next EU budgetary cycle (MFF 2021-2027).

This agreement sets a dangerous precedent against the democratic functioning of the EU and, in particular, against the oversight role of the Parliament on EU programmes.

It is in your hands to close this Pandora’s box while there is still time. If not, it will pave the way for the EU to become merely a cash cow for profit-making companies and national short term interests, and the Parliament reduced to a rubber-stamping body.

This is not what EU citizens are expecting from you ahead of crucial elections, nor will it improve EU’s legitimacy to their eyes.

We urge you to oppose the adoption of this provisional agreement and let the next Parliament have the power to decide what to do with 13 billion Euros."

EU: Safe harbours: the cities defying the EU to welcome migrants (Open Democracy, link):

"This weekend, thousands of people marched in Berlin, and several other German cities including Nuremberg and Cologne, to protest a bill, proposed by the interior minister, Horst Seehofer, that would toughen the country’s asylum and deportation laws and criminalise pro-migrant activism.

The protest was not the first of its kind. Over the last few months, there have been several coordinated demonstrations over migrant policy across Germany. Between July and September last year, tens of thousands of people dressed in orange, many wearing life jackets, took to the streets to protest a growing clampdown on migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean and the civil society organisations aiding them."

HUNGARY: Migrant debit cards: a tool of terrorism? Yes, so vote Fidesz (Hungarian Spectrum, link):

"Commentators outside of the Fidesz propaganda media claim that Orbán’s seven points, which are the basis of Fidesz’s campaign program for the European parliamentary election, are meaningless and undecipherable. Naturally, they are all about migration, but none of them addresses existing EU regulations or directives, which Orbán’s campaign is fighting against. For example, the fourth of the seven points is a demand to terminate the issuance of ‘migrant visas’ and ‘migrant cards.’” In light of the Orbán government’s latest propaganda effort on an international scale in the form of a news agency, V4NA, I think it might be educational to see how the regime creates fake news and uses it for propaganda purposes."

IRELAND: Plans to regulate private security enforcing court orders welcomed by civil rights group (Irish Legal News, link):

"Plans to regulate private security personnel employed to enforce court orders have been welcomed by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL).

The civil rights group told Irish Legal News that tensions over the conduct of security officials at evictions in Dublin last year illustrated the need for public oversight.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan yesterday secured agreement from his Government colleagues to bring forward draft amendments to the Private Security Services Act 2004 (as amended).

Bringing enforcement guards within the licensing remit of the Private Security Authority (PSA) was the key recommendation of an inter-departmental working group report presented to the Cabinet yesterday."

EU: Council wants a "comprehensive study" on data retention that considers "a future legislative initiative"

The Council of the EU is set to ask the European Commission to "prepare a comprehensive study" on the legal possibilities for retention of telecommunications data for law enforcement purposes, to be ready by the end of 2019. That study should include "the consideration of a future legislative initiative," according to a set of draft conclusions due to be discussed in a Council working party tomorrow.

EU offers terse response to Gaza youth shot by Israelis (EUobserver, link):

"People shot by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip want the European Union to cut research funding to Israeli defence and security industries.

But their demands have been met with short shrift by the European Commission, highlighting the sense of abandonment of a population ring-fenced in an open air like prison."

Italy’s Salvini Capitalizes on Romanian Criminals’ Deportation (Balkan Insight, link):

"talian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini’s hardline rhetoric about law-breakers among the country’s large Romanian community have raised concerns that by highlighting only criminal elements he is fuelling anti-Romanian feeling in Italy.

Salvini announced on Facebook that a flight that left Rome for Bucharest on Wednesday transported 13 convicted felons back to their home country to serve their sentences at the expense of the Romanian government."

EU: Security Union: European Commission welcomes the final adoption of the new European Criminal Records Information System on convicted third country nationals (press release, pdf):

"The Council gave today its final approval to the Commission's proposal to create a European Criminal Records Information System on convicted third country nationals.

This central system aims to improve the exchange of criminal records information regarding convicted non-EU-citizens and stateless persons through the existing European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS)."

And see: New criminal records database for non-EU nationals is "disproportionate and discriminatory"

European Data Protection Supervisor: EDPS investigates contractual agreements concerning software used by EU institutions (pdf):

"As the supervisory authority for all EU institutions, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) is responsible for enforcing and monitoring their compliance with data protection rules. In this capacity, the EDPS is undertaking an investigation into the compliance of contractual arrangements concluded between the EU institutions and Microsoft, the European Data Protection Supervisor said today. (...)

Wojciech Wiewiórowski, Assistant EDPS, said: “New data protection rules for the EU instiutions and bodies came into force on 11 December 2018. Regulation 2018/1725 introduced significant changes to the rules governing outsourcing. Contractors now have direct responsiblities when it comes to ensuring compliance. However, when relying on third parties to provide services, the EU institutions remain accountable for any data processing carried out on their behalf. They also have a duty to ensure that any contractual arrangements respect the new rules and to identify and mitigate any risks. It is with this in mind that the contractual relationship between the EU institutions and Microsoft is now under EDPS scrutiny.”

EU: Terrorist content online: Civil Liberties Committees makes improvements but proposal still dangerous

The European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) has agreed its position on a proposal to prevent the "dissemination of terrorist content online". Digital rights groups say that while LIBE's position is an improvement on the Commission's proposal, the text is still a danger to freedom of speech online.

CoE: Commissioner Mijatovic highlights main human rights challenges in Europe (link):

"While the report covers a variety of the most pressing human rights issues in the Council of Europe member states, the Commissioner highlights migration, women’s rights, human rights of persons with disability, the protection of human rights defenders and the safety of journalists as the most recurrent topics of her work.

“Migration is among the most pressing human rights issues on my agenda”, she says. “National authorities should improve the treatment of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees, and put human rights and the principle of responsibility sharing at the centre of their migration and asylum policies”."

See; Annual activity report (link)

ECHR: Arbitrary detention of an 8-year-old child in a police station (link):

"In today’s Chamber judgment1 in the case of Tarak and Depe v. Turkey (application no. 70472/12) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

- a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case concerned the detention of an eight-year-old child, Birtan Sinan Depe. He was taken to a police station following a search carried out at the home of neighbour to whom his mother had entrusted him. He was detained alone in the station for at least one day."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (2-8.4.19) including:

European Parliament study: The Scrutiny of the European Defence Fund by the European Parliament and national parliaments (pdf)

"Since 2016, the European Union has developed a number of new initiatives on security and defence. In particular, the introduction of Permanent Structured Cooperation and the European Defence Fund have been designed to allow the EU to become a more autonomous actor with regard to crisis management, capacity building and protecting Europe and its citizens. Yet the development of these new initiatives raises questions about their overall coherence and the role of parliamentary scrutiny. It is necessary to analyse the role of the European Parliament and national parliaments in relation to the scrutiny of the European Defence Fund. There is a need for recommendations on how parliamentary scrutiny can be enhanced at the EU level in the area of security and defence."

UK: The DCMS Online Harms Strategy must “design in” fundamental rights (Open Rights Group, link):

"DCMS [the Department for Culture, Media and Sport] talks a lot about the ‘harm’ that social media causes. But its proposals fail to explain how harm to free expression impacts would be avoided.

On the positive side, the paper lists free expression online as a core value to be protected and addressed by the regulator. However, despite the apparent prominence of this value, the mechanisms to deliver this protection and the issues at play are not explored in any detail at all."

See: Online Harms White Paper (pdf)

Serbia Convicts State Security Officers of Journalist’s Murder (Balkan Insight, link):

"Belgrade Higher Court on Friday convicted four former Serbian state security employees of the murder in 1999 of journalist and editor Slavko Curuvija, who was known for his opposition to the regime of Slobodan Milosevic.

Former head of Serbian State Security Radomir Markovic and security service officer Milan Radonjic were each sentenced to 30 years in prison, while secret service agents Ratko Romic and Miroslav Kurak were each given 20 years in prison.

The verdict said that Markovic told Milan Radonjic of the plan to assassinate the critical journalist, and Radonjic made a deal with Romic and Kurak to execute Curuvija.

The court’s first-instance ruling can be appealed."

Far-right launch EU campaign at Milan mini-meeting (EUobserver, link):

"Danish, Finnish, German, and Italian far-right political figures will discuss plans for an EU alliance in Milan on Monday (8 April), prior to a larger congress in May.

Originally meant to attract a bigger attendance, the event, at the ritzy Hotel Gallia in Milan, was branded a "flop" by some Italian politicians.

But Matteo Salvini, the head of Italy's far-right League party and its deputy prime minister, who is hosting Monday's meeting, said there would be a larger one in the Circus Maximus, a classical-era chariot stadium, in Rome in May ahead of the European Parliament (EP) elections later that month. "

EU: What Does the Spring Bring for the Rule of Law in Europe? (Verfassungsblog, link):

"A few weeks before the European Parliament elections the Commission took new interest in safeguarding the rule of law in Europe. On April 3, 2019 it started a new infringement procedure about the Polish judicial reform, this time focusing on the new disciplinary regime for judges. On the same day it also launched a reflection process “to strengthen the rule of law in Europe,” in the hope of “setting out possible avenues for reflection on future action”.

It is in the spirit of much needed reflection and – even more – hope about more robust future action against violators of (allegedly) shared European values that the recent opinion of the Venice Commission on Hungary’s administrative court reform is worth a closer look."

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."

CoE: European states must demonstrate resolve for lasting and concrete change for Roma people (link):

"On 8 April, we will celebrate International Roma Day. This is a day to celebrate Roma culture and Roma contributions to European societies, and the cultural diversity of Europe. The 8th of April, which commemorates the first World Romani Congress held in London in April 1971, should also be a reminder of the urgent need to better protect the human rights of Roma.

Across Europe, the continuation of human rights abuses targeting Roma goes against all efforts otherwise made to improve their access to education, health care and employment and prevents them from fully participating in society."

And see House of Commons - Women and Equalities Committee: Tackling inequalities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Travellercommunities (pdf)

Right-Wing Populism and Counter-Movements in Rural Europe (arc2020.eu, link):

"Right-wing populism has gained high levels of support among rural population in Europe. How could this happen and what are the solutions? Natalia Mamonova, of the Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative, explains the causes of populism in the European countryside and shares some ideas on potential resistance and the building of alternatives to the regressive nationalist politics."

European Parliament Study: framework for algorithmic accountability and transparency (pdf) and Annex (pdf):

"A significant factor in the adoption of algorithmic systems for decision-making is their capacity to process large amounts of varied data sets (i.e. big data), which can be paired with machine learning methods in order to infer statistical models directly from the data. The same properties of scale, complexity and autonomous model inference however are linked to increasing concerns that many of these systems are opaque to the people affected by their use and lack clear explanations for the decisions they make."

USA-GREECE: Memorandum of Cooperation on Implementing Greece’s Passenger Name Record Law (link):

"The use of PNR in traveler screening is an important part of Greece’s efforts to prevent terrorists, serious criminals, and other mala fide actors from traveling, in line with international and European Union obligations. Acknowledging this and other border security improvements and based on the memorandum, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will now initiate the process to restore the validity of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) for Greek citizens traveling to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for business or pleasure for stays of up to 90 days."

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.

UK: Fighting Sus! then and now (IRR News, link) by Joseph Maggs:

"A new project Fighting Sus! brings the youth experience of racialised policing to the fore.

In Fighting Sus! a group of young people engage with past struggles against racist state violence and, with angry intelligence and politicised creativity, range themselves against its present manifestations. "

UK: Court of Appeal overturns draconian injunctions preventing protests against INEOS fracking activities (Garden Court Chambers, link):

"The Court of Appeal has today, 3 April 2019, given judgment in INEOS v PERSONS UNKNOWN and allowed appeals against injunctions that had been obtained on allegations of conspiracy to injure by unlawful means and in public nuisance. As a result of the court's decision, injunctions were discharged and the claims based on those allegations were dismissed. The court allowed injunctions preventing trespass and interference with land confined to particular sites to remain in force temporarily pending reconsideration by the High Court, but said that even those needed further consideration as to whether the appropriate test under section 12 of the Human Rights Act 1998 was met, and to consider time limiting those injunctions."

See: Full-text of the judgment ([2019] EWCA Civ 515, pdf)

EU: New Visa Code: Final text for plenary vote in the Parliament on 17 April 2019: Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL amending Regulation (EC) No 810/2009 establishing a Community Code on Visas (Visa Code) (pdf)

See also: Letter to Claude Moraes, Chair of LIBE from the Council (60 pages,pdf)

EU: MEPs make last-ditch attempt to halt mandatory fingerprinting of all ID holders

Last-ditch amendments are being proposed by MEPs to try to prevent the mandatory fingerprinting of every national identity card holder in the EU and the potential construction of national fingerprint databases, before a final vote on a proposed new law in the European Parliament due this Thursday (4 April).

Interpol and Europol extend facial recognition (Matthias Monroy, link):

"The two police organisations are using new capabilities to search biometric images. Investigators can mark persons or things and match them with other files. At the G20 summit, the Hamburg state data protection commissioner criticised this procedure."

Presumption of innocence in Bulgaria: abuse for political ends (Fair Trials, link):

"A fundamental element of the right to a fair trial is that every person should be presumed innocent until proved guilty following a fair trial. In the EU, the Directive on the Presumption of Innocence clearly states that the burden of proof for establishing guilt is on the prosecution. The directive also prohibits public authorities and courts from making any public references to guilt before the final verdict. But how well are these rules respected in practice? One example comes from Bulgaria, where our LEAP member Asya O. Mandzhukova-Stoyanova works as a criminal lawyer and told us about the situation."

European Parliament Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) to adopt new Regulation on the European Border and Coast Guard

Today the European Parliament Civil Liberties Committee will be adopting the final text coming out of trilogue meetings on a new: Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Border and Coast Guard (240 pages, pdf)

N Ireland: Solidarity protest outside Belfast court for No Stone Unturned journalists (NUJ, link):

" the lawyers representing Trevor and Barry challenged the search warrants and argued in court that there was no evidence in the public interest for the redactions made to the search warrant applications by Durham Constabulary and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).(...):

Seamus Dooley, NUJ Irish secretary, said: "Today’s hearing was technical in nature but hugely important. Justice should be administered in daylight and not in the dark. In order to comprehend the reason why the original warrants were granted it is vital that the entire proceedings are available. Barry, Trevor and their legal teams cannot adequately vindicate their rights with their hands tied behind their back. It is obvious that barriers are being put in place at every turn in this case. The strain on two working journalists and their families cannot be underestimated. Amid the legal arguments and technicalities it would also be easy to forget that those responsible for the Loughinisland murders remain at large, grieving families are still denied justice and only journalists seeking the truth are at risk of criminal convictions."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (26.3-1.4.19) including:

Undemocratic civil society laws are appearing in democracies (Open Global Rights, link):

"Amnesty International recently released a startling report which discusses the ever-growing number of countries using repressive techniques, including the passage of restrictive legislation, to prevent or deter civil society organizations (CSOs) from performing their critical work...

Interestingly, the restrictions Amnesty documents seem to transcend geography, GDP, development status, and most perplexingly, political structure or regime type. Indeed, they are appearing, and increasingly so, in countries of all economic and political types, including strong, consolidated, long-standing democracies. Not only do Pakistan, Kazakhstan, and Myanmar appear in the list of countries that have adopted restrictive CSO legislation; the US, UK, Australia, and Ireland are named too. The startling fact that strong democratic countries, the very ones that most vocally support a strong and independent civil society, are part of the closing space trend has yet to be fully probed or documented."

UK-USA: Police investigating role of UK officers in torture of al-Qaida suspect (The Guardian, link):

"Metropolitan police detectives have launched an investigation into allegations that MI5 and MI6 officers involved in the interrogation under torture of an al-Qaida suspect committed serious criminal offences.

Scotland Yard has confirmed that a senior investigating officer, who is familiar with other rendition cases, has begun examining the role of UK intelligence officials during the questioning of Abu Zubaydah at CIA so-called ‘black sites’."

See: Statewatch Observatory on "rendition"

UK-SPAIN: Aberdeen South MP Ross Thomson criticised for meeting with far-right party (The Press and Journal, link):

"A north-east MP has been criticised after pictures emerged of him smiling alongside a member of a far-right Spanish party.

Aberdeen South MP Ross Thomson was snapped in Parliament with Iván Espinosa de los Monteros, who is a senior member of Vox, on Wednesday.

The party, which won a number of seats in southern Spain in December, has attracted widespread controversy with pledges to abolish a 2007 “law of historical memory” which demanded the removal of Franco-era fascist symbols from public places.

Its leader, Santiago Abascal, has also raged against what he calls “supremacist feminism and gender totalitarianism” and the party has complained that existing domestic violence laws are unfairly weighted against men."

EU: Evaluation of legal migration rules finds them mostly "fit for purpose" but highlights "critical issues" for the future

An extensive evaluation of the rules on legal migration into the EU concludes that while existing measures are largely "fit for purpose", a number of "critical issues" remain if the EU "wants to achieve in full the Treaty objective of developing a common legal migration policy".

EU: New roles for Frontex agreed by Council and Parliament - but externalised deportations excluded

The European Parliament and the Council have agreed on new rules for Frontex - or the European Border and Coast Guard Agency as it is now formally known - including the setting up of a "standing corps" of 10,000 operational staff by 2027, executive powers for the agency's staff and the possibility for joint operations and deployments outside EU borders.

UK: Privatisation Is Creating Unfair Access to Immigration Services (Novara Media, link):

"High profile outsourcing failures such as Interserve and Capita have led to questions around the sustainability of private companies managing crucial public services, yet the government has not shown any signs of curtailing the practice.

Last year, French company Sopra Steria was handed a £91m contract to help ‘digitise’ the UK’s visa and immigration system. It has now opened almost 60 new UK Visa and Citizenship Application Service (UKVCAS) centres for processing paperwork. At £200 per visit, the Premium Lounge is the most expensive of these centres, but they all offer the same core service, a way to upload scans of important documents like passports rather than risk losing them by posting them to the Home Office. In time, the government has said it will phase out the old postal option and most applications will be processed via a Sopra Steria outlet."

EU cooperation instruments with North African states: promoting or restricting migrants’ and refugee rights?

Two new briefings by the EuroMediterranean Human Rights Network look at the implications for migrants and refugees of EU policies and financial aid to North African states. The first examines the main cooperation agreements aimed at realising the rights of migrants and refugees, while the second looks at policies and projects dedicated to border management "and their often negative consequences on the rights of persons migrating."


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