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Archive - February 2019
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What's New archives: carries all items that have been added or updated from News Online and Observatories.

February 2019

Europe’s deadly migration strategy - Officials knew EU military operation made Mediterranean crossing more dangerous (Politico, link):

""But a collection of leaked documents from the European External Action Service, the bloc’s foreign policy arm, obtained by POLITICO, paint a different picture.

In internal memos, the operation’s leaders admit Sophia’s success has been limited by its own mandate — it can only operate in international waters, not in Libyan waters or on land, where smuggling networks operate — and it is underfunded, understaffed and underequipped.(...)

The confidential reports also show the EU is aware that a number of its policies have made the sea crossing more dangerous for migrants, and that it nonetheless chose to continue to pursue those strategies. Officials acknowledge internally that some members of the Libyan coast guard that the EU funds, equips and trains are collaborating with smuggling networks.

For the operation’s critics, the EU’s willingness to turn a blind eye to these shortcomings — as well as serious human rights abuses by the Libyan coast guard and in the country’s migrant detention centers — are symptomatic of what critics call the bloc’s incoherent approach to managing migration and its desire to outsource the problem to non-EU countries."

ECHR: Unaccompanied migrant minors in detention (Factsheet, pdf): List of cases:

"“[I]t is important to bear in mind that [the child’s extreme vulnerability] is the decisive factor and ... takes precedence over considerations relating to the ... status [of] illegal immigrant.”

UK-BREXIT: IT systems to run UK borders 'may not be ready for no-deal Brexit' - National Audit Office warns of lack of Brexit preparations at UK border and by traders (Guardian, link):

"Six out of eight critical IT systems required to allow the UK’s borders to function under a no-deal Brexit are in danger of not being ready, Whitehall’s spending watchdog has found.

The National Audit Office has also concluded that with 31 days to go before the UK is due to leave the EU, the readiness of UK’s businesses are a “red-rated” risk if the government crashes out of Europe."

EU: Common European Asylum System legislation - still going nowhere fast

The Council's latest "progress report" on the seven pieces of legislation underpinning the Common European Asylum System has very little progress to report.

Nothing has changed on the Greek Islands (AYS Daily Digest 25/02/2019, link):

"Despite continuous claims by the Greek Government and EU authorities, and while still remembering embarrassing statements of the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras being proud of the living conditions of refugees on the islands, nothing there seems to change…

According to National Statistics 15,493 people are still on the facilities on the islands: 7252 on Lesvos, 1741 on Chios, 4294 on Samos, 1173 on Leros, 995 on Kos and 72 on other islands.

We learned to mistrust such statistics, especially while?—?on February 25th?—?they still state that no one is living in makeshift camps."

Sweden: Rogue algorithm stops welfare payments for up to 70,000 unemployed (Algorithm Watch, link):

"Automated decision-making has become a national talking point in Sweden, after a report by the country’s public broadcaster revealed thousands of unemployed people were wrongly denied benefits by a government computer run amok.

Officials at the Swedish Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen) started looking into the system after they noticed it was failing to generate letters to welfare claimants that had been expected. When they finished their review last year they found major shortcomings, with between 10% and 15% of the computer’s decisions likely to have been incorrect, SVT reported.

It is unclear whether it will be possible to identify and correct the erroneous decisions, and when exactly the problem started."

NORTHERN IRELAND: UKSC: No investigation into Pat Finucane’s death so far has been Article 2 compliant (Irish Legal News, link):

"The widow of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane has been granted a declaration that the state has failed to deliver an Article 2 compliant investigation into the death of her husband, who was shot and killed by loyalist paramilitaries in collusion with the UK security forces.

In a unanimous judgment, Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore found that the undertaking to carry out a public inquiry was clear and unambiguous, and that Mrs Finucane had a legitimate expectation that this would be complied with. However, he said that the law was clear that government may resile from that undertaking if “macro-political” issues of policy supervene, and accordingly dismissed this part of the appeal.

On the second issue, of whether the state had failed to meet its procedural obligations under Article 2 ECHR, Lord Kerr said that the many shortcomings of Desmond de Silva’s review attested to the fact that it was not an Article 2 compliant inquiry, and that an Article 2 compliant inquiry into the death of Patrick Finucane had not yet taken place."

See: JUDGMENT In the matter of an application by Geraldine Finucane for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland) (pdf)

GERMANY: Calling for whistleblowing is not a crime: the case of the German peace activist (Whistleblowing International Network, link):

"WIN is pleased to highlight the case of peace activist Hermann Theisen where the Court applied the provisions of the EU directive on trade secrets to acquit Mr. Theisen of criminal charges. Mr. Theisen’s case is an important contribution to the ongoing debates surrounding whistleblower protection in Germany. More broadly, though, this case is a landmark, setting the standard of how the trade secrets directive can be used as a conduit for whistleblower protection – a surprising and welcome turnaround for legislation that has a less than favourable reputation amongst many working to support and defend whistleblowers in the EU."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (19-25.2.19) including:

African Union seeks to kill EU plan to process migrants in Africa (The Guardian, link):

"The African Union is seeking to kill off the EU’s latest blueprint for stemming migration, claiming that it would breach international law by establishing “de facto detention centres” on African soil, trampling over the rights of those being held.

A “common African position paper” leaked to the Guardian reveals the determination of the 55-member state body, currently headed by Egypt, to dissuade any of its coastal states from cooperating with Brussels on the plan.

The EU set plans for “regional disembarkation platforms” in motion last summer to allow migrants found in European waters to have their asylum requests processed on African soil."

MONTENEGRO: Integrated Border Management Strategy Implemented by Government (Total Montenegro News, link):

"The Government adopted the Action Plan for Implementing the Integrated Border Management Strategy 2014-18, for 2019, and adopted the Report on the Implementing Measures and Activities from the Action Plan for 2018.

...Implementing Action Plan was considered very important for meeting the criteria and achieving the European security system, strengthening the ability to take over obligations arising from membership in the European Union, and aligning with Schengen requirements as key challenges in the process of Montenegro's EU accession."

UK: Immigration check outcry sees officers removed by councils (The Guardian, link):

"Labour councils are removing Home Office immigration officers embedded within local authorities after calls from party members and councillors to stop enabling policies that lead to a “hostile environment” for migrants.

Embedded officials sit in on meetings between councils and vulnerable migrant families and ensure the Home Office is made aware of each person that registers for emergency funds. They can also pass information to immigration enforcement officers, and have been accused of encouraging undocumented migrants to leave the UK voluntarily and of providing poor advice that could damage applications to stay in the country."

German Government confirms: Libyan authorities not contactable for maritime rescue (Andrej Hunko press release, pdf):

"The Federal Government confirms that there are “difficulties in the availability electronically and by telephone” of the Libyan ‘coastguard’. The same was also said to apply “regarding language barriers”. The EUNAVFOR MED military mission has initiated a “monitoring mecha-nism” to tackle problems such as these, with the aim of evaluating maritime rescue missions."

EU: Deprivation of citizenship: useful reading

Following the UK Home Secretary's controversial decision to revoke the citizenship of the teenager Shamima Begum, who left the UK to join Islamic State in 2015, the issue of citizenship deprivation has been high on the public agenda. A number of reports published in recent years provide useful reading on the topic.

Persona non grata, Consequences of security and migration policies at the France-Italy border - Observation report 2017-2018 (Anafé, pdf):

"In 2017 and 2018, working with local, national, French and Italian partner non-profits and NGOs, Anafé has monitored the border and has collected testimonies in order to conemn the illegal practices of the French administration against foreigners arriving there.

From Menton to Ventimiglia, in the Roya Valley, from Briançon to the Col de Fréjus and Modane, via the Col de Montgenèvre and the Col de l´Échelle, the conclusions are the same: discriminatory controls, hasty procedures, human rights violations, endangered people, irregularities in entry denials, hindrances to the access to asylum, failure to look after unacompanied minors, irregular push backs, irregular detention, police chases, violence, injuries and deaths."

EU: Council and Parliament reach agreement on immigration liaison officers, visas, biometric ID cards

Measures being negotiated as part of the EU's 'Security Union' are moving ahead swiftly, with the Council and Parliament reaching provisional agreements on new rules for immigration liaison officers, the EU's Visa Code and the introduction of mandatory biometric national identity cards; and the Council agreeing its negotiating position on the new Frontex Regulation.

EU: Council negotiating position on new Frontex Regulation

The Council of the EU last week agreed its mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament on the new Frontex Regulation, which will further increase the powers and role of the border agency. Statewatch is making the Council's mandate (document 6357/19, LIMITE, pdf) publicly available.

UK-BREXIT: House of Lords: Proposed Negative Statutory Instruments under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 Draft Law Enforcement and Security (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (pdf):

"We were not persuaded that so wideranging an instrument, covering policy areas that are individually of significant concern to the House, can be justified. Effective scrutiny is inhibited by the wide range of issues included.(...)

We take the view that the purpose of contingency regulations is to address the consequences of a ‘no deal’ exit from the EU. Any accompanying EM should not be treated simply as an academic exercise dealing only with the moment of transition."

Building States’ Capacity to Manage Legal Identity – Focus on e-Passports, Public Key Infrastructure (IOM, link):

"In a world increasingly on the move, technology races to efficiently support the daily management of departures and arrivals of millions of individuals at airports, seaports and land borders. This is a global challenge: facilitate national and international travels while optimizing security checks to adequately address border management risks.

In order to mitigate some of these risks, it is strongly recommended that travelers use biometric travel documents, such as e-passports and electronic identity cards, to properly verify their identity when needed, and obviously at a border.(...)

UK: Institute of Race Relations: The London Clearances a background paper on race, housing and policing (IRR News, link):

"New IRR publication provides a fresh take on housing, policing and racism in London.

The moral panic over supposedly dangerous black, urban subcultures in London, emerges at a crucial time, argues the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) in a challenging background paper published today."

Download copy of report (link)

Spain and Morocco reach deal to curb irregular migration flows (El Pais, link):

"Sea rescue services will be able to return some migrants to Moroccan ports instead of taking them to Spanish ones.

Spain and Morocco have reached an agreement on an unprecedented strategy to contain irregular immigration. Under the deal, Spain’s sea rescue services, Salvamento Marítimo, will be allowed to take some of the rescued migrants back to Moroccan ports, according to three sources in the Spanish government.

The measure will apply to migrants found in missions where Spanish rescue services are assisting the Moroccan Coast Guard in their maritime area of responsibility, and when the nearest port is in Morocco."

Greece races to move refugees from island likened to a 'new Lesbos' - Migration minister warns camp on Samos where hundreds of children live in squalor is six times over capacity (Guardian, link):

"Greek authorities are scrambling to house almost 4,000 people crammed into an overflowing migrant camp in Samos, as aid groups warn of a “humanitarian disaster” on one of Europe’s forgotten frontlines.

Likening Samos to a “new Lesbos,” the country’s migration minister warned of a race against the clock to find suitable accommodation for the ever growing number of people trapped in a reception centre now six times over capacity."

European Defence Fund agreed amid ethics concerns (euractiv. link):

"EU institutions reached a partial political agreement on the European Defence Fund (EDF) this week but decisions on the two major issues – budget and funding eligibility – had to be postponed as the file remains plagued by controversy."

AI: Global assault on NGOs reaches crisis point as new laws curb vital human rights work (link):

"Governments across the world are increasingly attacking non-governmental organizations (NGOs) by creating laws that subject them and their staff to surveillance, nightmarish bureaucratic hurdles and the ever-present threat of imprisonment, Amnesty International said in a new report released today.

Laws Designed to Silence: The Global Crackdown on Civil Society Organizations reveals the startling number of countries that are using bullying techniques and repressive regulations to prevent NGOs from doing their vital work."

EU to act against Poland if judges harassed for consulting ECJ (New Europe, link):

"First Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, warned that the EU executive will take action against Poland if its government is harassing judges for consulting the European Court of Justice on the legality of Polish reforms.

Speaking to journalists after the General Affairs Council in Brussels, Timmermans was particularly vocal about the request he received from Poland’s main judges’ association, which asked him to act."

EU: Civil Liberties MEPs back rules improving data exchange between EU information systems (EP press release, link):

"The informal deal between Parliament and Council negotiators on new measures to improve interoperability of EU information systems, was confirmed by Civil Liberties MEPs on Tuesday.

The new rules aim to improve data exchange between EU information systems used in security, border and migration management. They will facilitate the tasks of border guards, migration officers, police officers and judicial authorities by providing them with more systematic and faster access to various EU security and border-control information systems.

Read more about the informal agreement reached on 5 February [here]."

See: Statewatch Observatory: Creation of a centralised Justice & Home Affairs database is "a point of no return"

Council of Europe: The case for drafting a European convention on the profession of lawyer (pdf):

"It is... a matter of utmost concern that harassment, threats and attacks against lawyers continue to occur in many Council of Europe member States and are even increasing in some of them, where they have become widespread and systematic and are apparently the result of deliberate policy. These include, amongst other things: killings, which are sometimes inadequately investigated by the authorities; physical violence, including by public officials; threats, unjustified public criticism and identification of lawyers with their clients, including by leading politicians; abuse of criminal proceedings to punish lawyers or remove them from certain cases; violation of legal professional privilege through unlawful monitoring of clients’ consultations with their lawyers; search and seizure in the course of unlawful investigations; interrogation of lawyers as witnesses in their clients’ criminal cases; abuse of disciplinary proceedings; and various structural and procedural failures to establish and implement effective guarantees of lawyers’ independence."

See: Threats to the legal profession (CCBE, pdf)

UK: Sajid Javid warns EU counterparts of joint policing 'disruption' (The Guardian, link):

"The home secretary, Sajid Javid, has urged his EU counterparts to prepare for the eventuality that current joint policing systems could discontinue on 30 March because of a no-deal Brexit.

The EU and the UK have produced similar contingency plans for no-deal arrangements but Javid has now written to member states appealing for them to “minimise operational disruption” by ensuring measures are in place on time.

He also warns that there is, as yet, no deal in place for sharing of airline passenger data, critical in the fight against criminals and terrorists who flee to another country to escape the law."

The letter: Police and judicial cooperation in the context of the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union (pdf)

Turkey might allow Syrian refugees to go to Europe - newspaper (Ahval, link):

"The Turkish government is considering opening its borders to allow Syrian refugees to travel to Europe as the European Union opposes Ankara’s plan to establish what it calls a safe zone in northeastern Syria, pro-government daily Yeni Safak said on Friday.

The United States and the European Union are sabotaging Turkey’s plans to establish a safe zone to the east of the River Euphrates as a way to help four million Syrians in Turkey return to their homeland, Yeni Safak said.

In response, Turkey is considering abandoning a 2016 refugee deal between Turkey and the EU, it said, on the grounds that the EU has failed to fulfil the terms of the agreement."

The ECtHR as a drowning ‘Island of Hope’?’ Its impending reversal of the interpretation of collective expulsion is a warning signal (Verfassungsblog, link):

"The outcome of the currently pending case ND and NT v. Spain before the Grand Chamber may determine the future course of the Court in other migration policy related cases. This particular case deals with Spain’s policy of ‘devoluciones en caliente’ or ‘hot returns’ in Melilla. These are immediate returns of foreign citizens who have been intercepted at the Spanish-Moroccan border area without even assessing these individuals’ identity. The public hearing before the Grand Chamber took place last fall and the pronouncement of the judgment is expected soon. The judgment could be yet another setback for the interpretation of the prohibition of collective expulsion, for push-back policies and, more broadly, for the minimum level of protection for migrants and refugees by the European Convention on Human Rights and its additional protocols. Thus, the ruling might be a further step in a development to cut minimum guarantees for migrants and asylum seekers – a development encouraged by pressure from certain governments."

GREECE: Council of Europe slams Greece over refugee camp conditions

"Horrific sanitary conditions, lack of food, and police beatings: just some of the conditions migrants in Greek camps are subjected to, according to a new report. The situation for children is particularly precarious."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (12-18.2.19) including:

EU: Internal Security Strategy implementation report: updates on data retention, cooperation with third countries, external borders

A comprehensive report on the implementation of the EU's Internal Security Strategy gives an overview of the 'state of play' with regard to potential new data retention measures, cooperation between EU agencies and institutions and third countries in the field of internal security, measures to strengthen the EU's external borders, and much more.

EU: Common European Asylum System: Evaluation of the application of the recast Qualification Directive (2011/95/EU) (pdf):

"The aim of the study was to evaluate the practical application of the Recast Qualification Directive 2011/95/EU (Recast QD or Directive 2011/95/EU) laying down standards for the qualification of third-country nationals as beneficiaries of international protection as well as for the content of such protection. To this end, the study examined how and to what extent Member States had implemented common standards, whether the Recast QD had changed the situation in the Member States when compared to 2013, the deadline for transposing the Recast QD into national legislation, and whether it had led to greater convergence at EU level. Finally, the study identified benchmarks for measuring the implementation of each Article as well as shortcomings which could possibly justify amendments to improve the effectiveness of the Directive."

And: Executive summary (pdf)

EU: Security Union: Commission recommends negotiating international rules for obtaining electronic evidence (European Commission press release, link):

"Today, the European Commission recommends engaging in two international negotiations on cross-border rules to obtain electronic evidence.

With the majority of criminal investigations requiring access to evidence based online and often outside the EU, there is an urgent need to equip police and judicial authorities with quick and efficient tools fit for modern reality.

Following up on the European Council Conclusions from October 2018, the Commission is presenting two negotiating mandates, one for negotiations with the United States and one on the Second Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe “Budapest” Convention on Cybercrime. Both mandates, which need to be approved by the Council, include specific safeguards on data protection, privacy and procedural rights of individuals."

UK: New Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act "threatens freedom of expression"

The UK's new Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act introduces an array of new offences and powers that could put freedom of expression at risk, according to Index on Censorship.

A hard Border makes return of violence to Northern Ireland 'inevitable' - stark new report warns (Irish Independent, link):

"Young people in Northern Ireland will be "groomed into violent activity" if a hard Border emerges after Brexit, a stark new report has warned.

The return of violence on this island is inevitable with the "only issue" being on what scale. The study compiled by the chairs of two Unesco committees also warns that rushing into a referendum on a united Ireland would also result in conflict.

A key problem identified by Professors Mark Brennan and Pat Dolan is that the 'Agreement Generation' has no memory of the harm caused by the decades of bloodshed.

They say older people have not shared enough about 'the horrors of war' that is termed 'the period of the troubles'. Instead some of the violence has been 'romanticised'."

See: Northern Ireland Returning to Violence as a Result of a Hard Border due to Brexit or a Rushed Border Poll: Risks for Youth (pdf by Senator Mark Daly, Professor Pat Dolan and Professor Mark Brennan.

Swedish anti-deportation activist avoids jail time (InfoMigrants, link):

"Elin Ersson prevented a plane from taking off that had an Afghan man aboard who was supposed to be deported back to his country. A Swedish court ruled that she will not have to spend time in jail, but ordered her to pay a fine.

Elin Ersson, the Swedish activist who live-streamed her protest on a plane that was taking an Afghan man back to his home country was fined 3,000 Swedish kronor ($324, €286) in court on Monday.

Ersson protested the deportation on a Turkish airlines plane at Gothenburg Landvetter Airport, which was bound for Istanbul on July 23, 2018. She refused to take her seat for take-off unless the man would not be deported. The livestream of her protest went viral."

When rescue is capture: kidnapping and dividing migrants in the Mediterranean (OpenDemocracy, link) by Martina Tazzioli:

"The Italian minister of the interior, Matteo Salvini, is currently under investigation for abuse of power and the kidnapping of 177 migrants. These migrants were, on Salvini’s orders, confined to the coast guard vessel Diciotti for more than one week in late August last year. While this case received international media attention, it was not an isolated event. Over the last several years Italian ministers and politicians have repeatedly violated international and domestic law as they have sought to prevent individuals from migrating over the Mediterranean Sea. The disembarkation of rescued migrants has been denied or delayed many times. On a few occasions, Italy has arbitrarily closed its ports entirely.

...far from being an exclusive Italian affair, the above mentioned legal and political controversies are part of a European battle, in which member states compete to not take care of a few dozen people on a boat seeking asylum. In fact, the recurrent strategy of taking migrants hostage is a sign of how deep Europe’s crisis has become."

Tighter laws continue to hit migrants across the EU (FRA, link):

"Stricter migration laws and policies continue to take their toll on migrants’ fundamental rights, finds the agency’s latest report on migration-related fundamental rights concerns. It highlights the hardening political stance in Member States, difficulties in claiming asylum, and poor reception conditions during the cold winter months."

See: Migration: Key fundamental rights concerns (quarterly report, pdf): covering developments in Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Greece, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Poland.

Bulgaria urged to stop locking up stateless people by detained heart doctor (Thomson Reuters Foundation, link):

"A cardiac specialist, who was locked up in Bulgaria for six weeks because he has no nationality, has called on the government to stop treating stateless people like criminals.

Sager Al-Anezi, who is from a large stateless population in Kuwait called the Bidoon, qualified as a doctor after moving to Bulgaria in 2007 and was training to become a heart surgeon.

The doctor said stateless people could not go to university in Kuwait, but he was able to obtain a passport from a third country - which he did not want to name - with Kuwait's blessing which allowed him to study abroad and led him to Bulgaria.

But when he tried to renew that passport the third country refused and he applied for formal recognition as a stateless person in Bulgaria. He was locked up on Jan. 3 when he chased up on that application."

Striking for Refugees on Samos? (Samos Chronicles, link):

"Where were the refugees?

As for the strike itself there was one overwhelming question as far as I was concerned: “Where were the refugees?” What was supposed to be an act of solidarity was massively diminished by their absence. Yet on fine weather days such as this, you will always see many refugees on the streets, walking by the sea front or with their children in the play areas. But on this day, apart from a scattering of young African men on the very edges of the gathering, there were no refugees to be seen. It was startling and disturbing."

Are You Syrious? (15.2.19, link):

Feature

"217 people died in the Mediterranean this year. Among those who lost their lives while dreaming about freedom and dignified life, was were four girls - one was 9 years old, the two 16 and one 17 years.

If the borders are open, these girls would not be forced to take this dangerous journey across the sea in the winter. Even more, if life in the countries where they are coming from is safe, they could stay at home, go to school, fall in love for the first time, go out with friends, laugh, play, plan a future… But, they became just numbers in IOM dark statistics. (...)"

Italy's asylum rejection rate at record high (euobserver, link):

"The rate of rejection of would-be asylum seekers has reached a record high in Italy, according to figures released by the Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI). It says some 24,800 asylum applications in Italy were denied in the last four months. It noted rejected asylum applications went from 17,500 from October 2017 to January 2018, to almost 25,000 between October 2018 and January 2019."

EU: Meijers Committee: Comments on the proposal for a Regulation on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online (COM(2018) 640 final) (pdf):

"regulating the way platforms deal with online illegal content touches upon the freedom of expression and therefore requires high standards of fundamental rights protections in democratic societies.(...)

The proposed Regulation contains far-reaching obligations to take proactive measures. These are not limited to detection of re-uploads of already removed content, but include the identification of new material (including by automated tools)."

European Parliament studies:

Misuse of Interpol’s Red Notices and impact on human rights – recent developments (pdf):

"International organisations continue to report the abuse by some states of Interpol’s Notice System to persecute national human rights defenders, civil society activists and critical journalists in violation of international standards of human rights."

Cross-border nuclear safety, liability and cooperation in the European Union (pdf):

"Specific attention is paid to citizen and NGO involvement in decision-making concerning nuclear power plants. The study analyses the case law in that respect and formulates various recommendations to improve the regime concerning cross-border nuclear safety, liability and corporation in the EU."

Strategies: Truth, reconciliation and justice for addressing antigypsyism (pdf):

"The study explores concrete proposals to upscale the post-2020 Roma framework strategy via a Rule of Law, Democracy and Fundamental Rights (DRF) Periodic Review/Mechanism and a Truth and Reconciliation Process at the EU level. It proposes ways to strengthen the role of the European Parliament in ensuring democratic accountability and the right to truth and effective justice for past and current human rights violations."

European Parliament: 3rd WORKING DOCUMENT (A) on the Proposal for a Regulation on European Production and Preservation: Orders for electronic evidence in criminal matters (2018/0108 (COD)) - Execution of EPOC(-PR)s and the role of service providers (pdf)

Are You Syrious (14.2.19, link):

ITALY

"Italy’s public prosecutor is investigating the death of 117 people, who lost their lives on 19th January, after more than 8 hours stranded at sea, because of Libya not responding to Rome’s MRCC calls.

Neither the countries’ coastguards nor the commercial ships in the area reacted to the SOS calls and, unfortunately, Sea Watch 3 was too far away to reach the boat in distress on time.

Only 3 people, out of 120, survived.(...)"

Urgent need to address intersex human rights violations, says European Parliament (Intergroup on LBGT Rights, link):

"On 14 February 2019, the European Parliament adopted its first-ever resolution dedicated to intersex human rights."

Belgian spy scandal puts EU and Nato at risk (euobserver, link):

"A Belgian intelligence officer has been accused of working for Russia, amid long-standing security fears in Brussels - the home to both EU and Nato institutions."

German jump in anti-Semitic crimes 'worrying, but no surprise' (DW, link)

"The number of anti-Semitic incidents has increased by 10 percent over the previous year. Jewish leaders said the numbers merely reinforced what people had already seen in their daily lives."

EU asylum applications fall to below half crisis peak (Reuters, link):

"The number of people seeking asylum in the European Union fell for a third straight year in 2018 to less than half the peak during the 2015-2016 migration crisis, data released on Wednesday showed.

The bloc’s asylum agency reported 635,000 applications in 2018, still more than double the figures typical before the 2011 “Arab Spring” uprisings spread war and instability across North Africa and the Middle East.

The 2018 figure was slightly below 641,000 asylum applications filed in 2014, the last year before a surge in arrivals by the Mediterranean sea created a high-profile humanitarian and political crisis.

The asylum figures peaked at 1.4 million and 1.3 million in 2015 and 2016. One of the main sea routes used by asylum seekers to reach Europe - from Turkey to Greece - was largely shut in 2016, and another - from Libya to Italy - was sharply curbed last year. "

See: EASO report: EU+ asylum trends: 2018 overview (pdf)

UK: Expansion of the national DNA database accelerates

The number of DNA profile records held in the UK's National DNA Database (NDNAD) increased by over 172,000 in the year up to March 2018, the biggest annual increase since over a million records were deleted from the system following the entry into force of the Protection of Freedoms Act.

EU: Entry/Exit System: progress report outlines "major issues" and "major risks"

A report on the development of the EU's Entry/Exit System (EES), designed to record the border crossings of almost all non-EU nationals entering or leaving the Schengen area, highlights a number of "major issues" and "major risks".

SPAIN: Catalan leaders go on trial in Madrid over independence bid (Reuters, link):

"Twelve Catalan politicians go on trial on Tuesday for their role in Catalonia’s failed 2017 independence bid, putting the spotlight back on Spain’s biggest political crisis in decades which could make it flare once again.

...The trial will decide if Catalan nationalist leaders stay in jail. The public prosecutor is seeking prison terms of up to 25 years on charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds. At stake are Spain’s stability, the future of Catalonia’s independence movement as well as the region’s and the central government’s image abroad.

“It’s the most important trial we have had in democracy”, Supreme Court president Carlos Lesmes told reporters on Feb. 1, referring to the return to democracy in Spain after dictator Francisco Franco’s death in 1975. "

EU: Migration and asylum: European Court of Auditors to examine "hotspots" in Greece and Italy

The European Court of Auditors (ECA) is to conduct an audit of the "hotspots" set up in Greece and Italy, which "will assess whether support for Greece and Italy has achieved its objectives, and whether the asylum, relocation and return procedures have been effective and swift."

IRELAND: Second fire attack on proposed refugee housing branded ‘unacceptable and worrying’ (Irish Legal News, link):

"A hotel which was earmarked as a possible Direct Provision centre has been subjected to an arson attack for the second time in five weeks.

Repairs to the Shannon Key West Hotel in Rooskey, which was attacked last month, had just been completed when it was set on fire again last night.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said he was “deeply concerned and disappointed” at the news. Gardaí are now examining the site."

EU: Report to the EU Parliament on Frontex cooperation with third countries in 2017

A recent report by Frontex, the EU's border agency, highlights the ongoing expansion of its activities with non-EU states.

GERMANY: New #NRW state police law used for the first time against climate activists: 3 people imprisoned (Enough is Enough, link):

"Last Saturday, the first use case of the so-called “Lex Hambi” occurred: after environmental activists had blocked an excavator in the Garzweiler opencast mine, they were arrested for alleged trespassing. For activists whose identity could not be verified, the Erkelenz District Court ordered police custody until Thursday (February 14) for the time being. For her decision, the judge cited the tightening of the North Rhine-Westphalian police law decided in December, which allows detention for up to seven days to verify identity. Until the end of 2018, these were allowed to last a maximum of 12 hours in NRW. Experts and interior experts regard this regulation as unconstitutional."

EU: 'I'll talk, but then I have to call Putin': steakhouse at centre of EU spy alert (The Guardian, link):

"The EU’s diplomatic and foreign wing, the European External Action Service (EEAS), alerted member states’ embassies last week to the presence of about 250 Chinese and 200 Russian spies said to be roaming the embassy-lined streets of the Belgian capital.

The missive suggested diplomats should avoid a popular steakhouse and cafe within walking distance of the commission headquarters, according to a report in the German newspaper Die Welt.

“I’m the only steakhouse around here, it has to be me,” admitted a flabbergasted Weiner when visited during a busy lunchtime. “It is nonsense, but, OK, I will talk to you for five minutes. Then I have to call Putin.”"

EU: EP civil liberties committee against proposal to give Frontex powers to assist non-EU states with deportations

The European Parliament's civil liberties committee (LIBE) has agreed its position for negotiations with the Council on the new Frontex Regulation, and amongst other things it hopes to deny the border agency the possibility of assisting non-EU states with deportations.

World Health Organisation report: "No public health without refugee and migrant health"

"The Report on the Health of Refugees and Migrants in the WHO European Region is the first WHO report of its kind, creating an evidence base with the aim of supporting evidence-informed policy-making to meet the health needs of refugees and migrants and the health needs of the host populations."

Council of Europe: Hungary should address many interconnected human rights protection challenges (link):

"Challenges include civil society space, gender equality, refugee protection and independence of the judiciary.

“Hungary faces many interconnected human rights challenges,” said today Dunja Mijatovic, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, after her five-day visit to Hungary last week. “The space for the work of NGOs, human rights defenders and journalists critical of the government has become very narrow and restricted.”"

Study: Germany needs 260,000 immigrants a year to meet labor demand (DW, link):

"Germany needs at least 260,000 new migrant workers per year until 2060 in order to meet labor shortages caused by demographic decline, according to a study published on Tuesday.

Of that number, 146,000 people each year would need to immigrate from non-EU member states, the research published by the Bertelsmann Foundation said.

Due to an aging population, the labor force in Germany is estimated to shrink by a third, or around 16 million people, by 2060 without immigration. Absent immigration, the labor shortage could have a devastating impact on world's fourth largest economy."

Libyan coast guard taking drifting migrants back to Libya - Salvini (Times Malta, link):

"Some 150 migrants have been picked up by the Libyan Coastguard from a drifting boat and are being taken back to Libya, from where they had departed, Italian Home Affairs Minister Matteo Salvini said on Monday evening.

Earlier, the NGO Alarm Phone expressed its concern over the migrants and said the Maltese and Italian maritime rescue authorities have been alerted about them.

The boat, which Alarm Phone said was believed to be carrying “50-60 women and 30 children”, was drifting after its engine stopped working."

German car toll and deportation law stokes EU criticism in Austria (euractiv, link):

"Interior minister Herbert Kickl from the populist Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) recently asked European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos for permission to deport criminal refugees found guilty of more basic offences.

However, the Greek official rejected this plan, saying that such an amendment would contravene the Geneva refugee convention.

The debate around deportation has been sparked by the murder of the head of the social welfare office in Dornbirn (Vorarlberg) in east Austria.

...There could be zero tolerance for criminal asylum seekers, said Vorarlberg’s state governor, Markus Wallner (ÖVP). He added that this is a gap in legislation that had to be closed."

Italy: 'Migrant menace': Salvini accused of targeting refugees and ignoring mafia (Guardian, link):

"...last Thursday night, when 90 carabinieri paramilitary police officers surrounded several apartment buildings in Caserta, the provincial capital, many residents thought an anti-mafia blitz was under way. The targets were in fact immigrants, under scrutiny for sanitary inspections of their homes.

It is part of a trend since Matteo Salvini of the far-right League became interior minister in June 2018. Senator Pietro Grasso, a member of the national anti-mafia commission and former prosecutor responsible for the 2006 arrest of the Sicilian mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano, said: “Unfortunately, the Italian government […] is prioritising immigration, making people believe it is an emergency, rather than fighting the real problems, such as the mafia. Meanwhile, the bosses are getting richer and richer.”"

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (5-11.2.19) including:

  • How EU Countries Undermine the Right to Liberty by Expanding the Use of Detention of Asylum Seekers upon Entry
  • Libya: Parallel forces under interior ministry dominating decision making in Tripoli
  • Spain: APDHA, EntreFronteras and the Andalusia Union of Journalists call for an end to the information blackout at the southern border
  • Council of Europe: Discrimination, artificial intelligence, and algorithmic decision-making (pdf):

    "The most relevant legal tools to mitigate the risks of AI-driven discrimination are non-discrimination law and data protection law. If effectively enforced, both these legal tools could help to fight illegal discrimination. Council of Europe member States, human rights monitoring bodies, such as the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, and Equality Bodies should aim for better enforcement of current non-discrimination norms.

    But AI also opens the way for new types of unfair differentiation (some might say discrimination) that escape current laws. Most non-discrimination statutes apply only to discrimination on the basis of protected characteristics, such as skin colour. Such statutes do not apply if an AI system invents new classes, which do not correlate with protected characteristics, to differentiate between people. Such differentiation could still be unfair, however, for instance when it reinforces social inequality.

    We probably need additional regulation to protect fairness and human rights in the area of AI. But regulating AI in general is not the right approach, as the use of AI systems is too varied for one set of rules. In different sectors, different values are at stake, and different problems arise. Therefore, sector-specific rules should be considered. More research and debate are needed."

    Government permission to travel: “Authority to Carry” (Papers, Please!):

    "A white paper on the use of PNR and API data (airline reservations), published by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in January 2019, lays out more starkly than ever before the goal of governments around the world: a permission-based system of government control and prior restraint in which a common carrier must receive “Authority to Carry” with respect to each passenger, before allowing them to board any flight.

    We’ve talked about this sort of permission-based travel control before, including in this 2013 overview of the system of US government surveillance and control of travel. (See our slides from that presentation). But we’ve rarely seen governments spell out so explicitly their intent to convert travel from a right to a privilege which can be exercise only by permission of the police..."

    See: Overview of the use of Advance Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Record (PNR) in the OSCE Area (pdf)

    EU: Crossing a Red Line: How EU Countries Undermine the Right to Liberty by Expanding the Use of Detention of Asylum Seekers upon Entry (ECRE, link):

    "This week the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, in conjunction with ECRE and a number of European project partners, launched their report “Crossing a Red Line: How EU Countries Undermine the Right to Liberty by Expanding the Use of Detention of Asylum Seekers upon Entry.” By examining four case studies; Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary and Italy, this research explores how asylum seekers’ rights to liberty are undermined upon entry, with a specific focus on de facto detention.

    “Crossing a Red Line” explains that while there has been a significant decrease in asylum applications in Bulgaria, Hungary and Italy, the use of detention upon entry has been increasing since 2015 and continues to do so. Practises of de facto detention- which indicates the deprivation of an individual’s liberty without the requirement of a detention order- are widespread and specific to country context. Hot spots, transit zones, pre- removal centres, border zones at which migrants have been ‘pushed- back’ and boats- including search and rescue vessels- have all become spaces in which people can be detained. In other cases “protective detention” results in unaccompanied children having their freedom of movement restricted.

    With no procedural guarantees and no opportunity to seek judicial review, the only possibility for release from de facto detention is to leave to another country."

    Munich Security Report 2019: The great puzzle: who will pick up the pieces? (pdf):

    "Looking at the current state of international affairs it is difficult to escape the feeling that the world is not just witnessing a series of smaller and bigger crises. Rather, the entire liberal international order appears to be falling apart – nothing will we be as it once was. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the global security landscape has never been more dangerous. We are experiencing an epochal shift, as one era is coming to an end, and for now only rough outlines of a new geopolitical age are visible. Although some states are committed to maintaining the liberal international order, it is questionable whether they – often distracted by other domestic and foreign policy challenges – are able to assume this role.

    ...This year's report analyses the reshuffling of core pieces of the international order. Besides looking at major powers like the United States, China and Russia, the report also highlights actors of the "second row": liberal democracies such as France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada and Japan. In addition, the report assesses current security policy developments in selected regions such as in the Western Balkans, in the Sahel region and in the Middle East. It examines the global challenge to arms control against the background of the recently suspended INF Treaty and emerging technologies such as hypersonic weapons. Other global issues covered are the security policy implications of current developments in the areas of international trade, transnational organized crime and artificial intelligence."

    EU: Relying on relocation: ECRE's proposal for a predictable and fair relocation arrangement following disembarkation (link to pdf)

    "EU countries need to set up a relocation arrangement that guarantees predictability and certainty. The reinvigoration of discussions on responsibility-sharing in the Council presents a window of opportunity, with a French-German proposal calling for a solidarity mechanism “based on relocation as a rule”, and a European Commission Communication suggesting that “temporary arrangements of genuine solidarity and responsibility could be put in place… as a bridge until the new Dublin Regulation becomes applicable”.

    In this policy paper, first, ECRE sets out its legal and political concerns with the current “ship by ship” approach to relocation of rescued persons, as well as questioning its compatibility with CEAS standards. The paper then elaborates on ECRE’s recommendation for a relocation mechanism for asylum seekers disembarked in EU ports based on fair and effective implementation of rules set out in the existing EU acquis."

    German rescue ship named after drowned toddler Alan Kurdi (DW, link):

    "The photograph of three-year-old Alan Kurdi's lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach shocked the world in 2015. A German rescue organization has now named a ship after the toddler.

    A German migrant rescue ship operating in the Mediterranean was renamed on Sunday after Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian Kurdish boy whose lifeless body washed up on a Turkish shore during the height of Europe's migrant crisis, galvanizing global opinion.

    German charity Sea-Eye renamed the ship in the presence of Alan's father, Abdullah Kurdi, and aunt, Tima Kurdi, in Palma on Spain's Balearic Island of Mallorca."

    EU: European Parliament studies: EU enforcement of the rule of law; the "parliamentary" nature of the Council of the EU

    Two recent studies undertaken for the European Parliament examine the EU's framework for enforcing the rule of law in its Member States; and "the parliamentary nature of the Council."

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

    A new EU database for holding information on convicted non-EU nationals is "disproportionate and discriminatory", says an analysis (pdf) published today by Statewatch.

    The European Criminal Records Information System for Third-Country Nationals (ECRIS-TCN) will allow Member States to search for information on non-EU nationals ("third-country nationals", in the EU jargon) convicted in other Member States.

    The system, to be managed by the EU Agency for Large-Scale IT Systems (eu-Lisa), will contain biographic data and fingerprints of non-EU nationals convicted in one or more EU Member States, as well as facial images, if permitted by the national law of the Member State uploading a file to the database.

    EU: "Interoperable" databases or rather the creation of a centralised Justice and Home Affairs database: First two measures agreed between the Council and the European Parliament - full text of Regulations

    Police cooperation, asylum and migration: Regulation on establishing a framework for interoperability between EU information systems (police and judicial cooperation, asylum and migration) and amending [Regulation (EU) 2018/XX [the Eurodac Regulation],] Regulation (EU) 2018/XX [the Regulation on SIS in the field of law enforcement], Regulation (EU) 2018/XX [the ECRIS-TCN Regulation] and Regulation (EU) 2018/XX [the eu-LISA Regulation] (326 pages, pdf): Four column document with the Commission proposal, the Council position, the European Parliament position and the a agreed "compromise" text.

    Borders and visa: Regulation on establishing a framework for interoperability between EU information systems (borders and visa) and amending Council Decision 2004/512/EC, Regulation (EC) No 767/2008, Council Decision 2008/633/JHA, Regulation (EU) 2016/399, Regulation (EU) 2017/2226, Regulation (EU) 2018/XX [the ETIAS Regulation], Regulation (EU) 2018/XX [the Regulation on SIS in the field of border checks] and Regulation (EU) 2018/XX [the eu-LISA Regulation]xx (437 pages, pdf). Four column document with the Commission proposal, the Council position, the European Parliament position and the a agreed "compromise" text.

    Interpol investigates war crimes in Syria and Iraq (Matthias Monroy, link):

    "Many „foreign fighters“ return to their home countries, 40 Germans and 130 French citizens alone are to be transferred from Kurdish prisons. The authorities are collecting "battlefield evidence“ to bring them to court."

    Why a far-right surge won't change EU migration policy (euobserver, link):

    "It appears unlikely that a surge by far-right parties could change the parliament's course on migration on its own."

    Fusion Centres in Six European Countries: Emergence, Roles and Challenges (pdf):

    "In the six European countries that this report covers, namely Belgium, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom (UK), there are different contexts that lead to the establishment of their respective fusion centres. The current contexts in which they function are also different, particularly concerning their mandate and their organisational structures. The provided selection of fusion centres and their descriptions are based on the responses to the call for contributions issued by ICCT among members of EENeT, focusing on exactly these points."

    UPDATED: : Day 2: Judicial cooperation (pdf)

    EU: Romanian Council Presidency: Informal meeting of justice and home affairs ministers – home affairs session (link):

    "MIGRATION – “A STEP FORWARD TOWARDS THE IDENTIFICATION OF THE APPROPRIATE SOLUTION”

    “Facing with the multiple problems that illegal migration represents, a single solution is needed in order to respond to all reported concerns at the level of European Union States. We do not need now antagonistic solutions that fuel populism, extremism and disrupt political cohesion within the EU. But, of course, we need to be constructive in order to find a common solution based on consensus. Migration is supposed to represent a vector of development for each Member State and not an additional burden, “said the Romanian Minister of Internal Affairs, Mrs. Carmen Dan."

    Countdown to Brexit: the key dates as UK's EU exit approaches, (Guardian, link):

    "With 50 days remaining, here are some of the deadlines and events that will be coming up"

    Cotonou successor: EU-Africa relations at the crossroads (euractiv, link):

    "Negotiators are hoping to break the back on talks for the successor to the Cotonou Agreement, which expires in May 2020, between the EU and 79 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP).

    EU policymakers are aware of a growing assertiveness of African governments and institutions in their dealings with Brussels. That is starting to be seen in the relationship between the EU and African institutions."

    Criminalising Dissent: the Stansted 15 and the Hostile Environment (IRR News, link):

    "A lecture examining political resistance to the UK’s ‘deport now, appeal later policy’, the value of direct action and what the judgement on the Stansted 15 means for the future of political dissent.

    Wednesday 20 February, 6pm – 8pm Room 313, School of Law, Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End, London, E1 4NS

    The event, hosted by the International State Crime Initiative, will feature Ali Tamlit and Helen Brewer – two members of the Stansted 15 – their legal counsel, and experts on policing and protest."

    And see: The Stansted 15 will not spend time in jail (pressenza.com, link)

    Hungary blocks joint EU-Arab League statement over migration issue (New Europe, link):

    "The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini had hoped to secure a leadership role for the 28 members of the European Union in their relations with the members of the Arab League, but much to the chagrin of the Brussels establishment, Hungary stepped in and cratered the plan from within when blocked the issuance of a joint statement by both parties due to the migration issue.".

    No quick fix for citizen rights under no-deal Brexit, says EU official (Guardian, link):

    "EU and UK nationals living abroad could face limbo after withdrawal agreement rejected."

    New UN deal with data mining firm Palantir raises protection concerns (IRIN News, link):

    "CIA-linked software firm Palantir will help the UN’s World Food Programme analyse its data in a new partnership worth $45 million, both organisations announced Tuesday, drawing immediate flak from privacy and data protection activists.

    The California-based contractor, best known for its work in intelligence and immigration enforcement, will provide software and expertise to the UN’s food relief agency over five years to help WFP pool its enormous amounts of data and find cost-saving efficiencies."

    EU: Follow the Money II – Report (ECRE, link):

    "The Asylum, Migration & Integration Fund (AMIF) 2014-20 aims to contribute, via financial assistance, to the effective management of migration flows and to the implementation and development of a common EU approach to asylum and migration. The AMIF reflects efforts to simplify and streamline the implementation of the European Union budget in the area of home affairs. For the 2014-2020 period, approximately 88% (€2.39bn) of the total AMIF resources of €3.1bn were allocated to Member States that adopted multiannual national programmes.

    ...The first ‘Follow the Money: Assessing the use of AMIF funding at the national level’ study, published in January 2018, assessed the programming and design of national AMIF funds from a civil society perspective. This second ‘Follow the Money’ study presents:

    UK-ECHR: Prisoners’ Voting Rights: Case Closed? (UK Constitutional Law Association, link):

    "On 6 December 2018, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe closed the supervision of the prisoners’ voting rights cases against the United Kingdom (UK) and adopted final resolution CM/ResDH(2018)467. Thirteen years after Hirst v United Kingdom (No.2) (2006) 42 EHRR 41 (Hirst) was made final, the protracted prisoner voting stalemate is over. Case closed. Or is it?

    This post provides an overview of the background context to the prisoners’ voting rights clash and assesses the Government’s administrative amendments to prisoners’ voting rights. This post will contend that the amendments are disappointing and inadequate. At the domestic level, the amendments bypassed Parliament’s involvement and at the supranational level, the Committee of Ministers’ approval of the amendments undermines the effectiveness of rights protection. It will be argued that the amendments fail to satisfy the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on prisoner voting. The issue of prisoners’ voting rights therefore remains open in the UK."

    UK-JAMAICA: Six Jamaican detainees given last-minute deportation reprieve (The Guardian, link):

    "At least six Jamaican detainees are understood to have been granted a last-minute reprieve from a deportation flight.

    The Home Office has not confirmed the timing of the private Titan Airways jet’s takeoff or the location.

    Campaigners say Owen Haisley, a musician from Manchester who has lived in north-west England since the age of four, is among them."

    And see: Stop the new deportation flights to Jamaica. They shouldn’t be happening (link) by Zita Holbourne

    UK: Liberty calls for ban on 'predictive policing'

    "Police forces in the UK should abandon their tests of computer programs to predict where crimes are likely to happen and whether individuals are likely to re-offend, human rights pressure group Liberty says today. According to the group, at least 14 forces in the UK are testing or in the process of developing ‘predictive policing’ systems based on machine-learning algorithms."

    LIBYA: Minister: Parallel forces under interior ministry dominating decision making in Tripoli (Libya Observer, link):

    "The Interior Minister of the Presidential Council, Fathi Bashagha, said there are armed groups and forces that are by name operating under the ministry, but in reality they are executing their own agendas away from the government's orders.

    In an interview with BBC Arabic, Bashagha said the parallel forces have some kind of hegemony in the decision making of the government in all fields, including politics, security and economy.

    "We have now a parallel interior ministry in Tripoli." He remarked, saying they do own a very huge amount of money to run their operations."

    EU: Captured states: When EU governments are a channel for corporate interests (Corporate Europe Observatory, link):

    "Corporate lobbies are actively influencing decision-making, via national ministers and officials, to ensure that EU laws and policies suit them. These corporate lobbies include famous national brands such as Volkswagen and Telefónica; iconic sectors like the finance industry in the City of London or the Polish coal industry; and high-spending EU trade associations such as BusinessEurope and CEFIC (the European Chemicals Industry Council). And whether it is on climate change, finance, chemicals, data privacy, or many other issues, when corporate interests win, the public interest loses out.

    Many of the ways in which member states feed into EU decision-making are shrouded in secrecy and not commonly studied. Our new report “Captured states: when EU governments are a channel for corporate interests” breaks new ground by providing an overview of how member states act as a channel for corporate influence, whether it is in the Council of the European Union (where member states’ ministers and officials input into EU law-making and policy-making); the European Council (where the heads of government of EU nations make pronouncements on the EU’s direction of travel); or the EU’s committee structure (which provide member states with key seats at the table to discuss the technical and scientific detail of EU laws)."

    SPAIN: APDHA, EntreFronteras and the Andalusia Union of Journalists call for an end to the information blackout at the southern border

    - They consider it a priority to guarantee compliance with the right to life, that rescues respect the legal requirements and that the right to information is preserved
    - They denounce the fact that the rescued and deceased persons have remained completely invisible

    European Commission wants to facilitate access to servers in third states (Matthias Monroy, link):

    "Police and judicial authorities are to have easier access to cloud data in the USA. To this end, a decree of the US government will also apply in the EU member states. As part of the "Budapest Convention", US authorities could also knock directly on the door of European Internet companies."

    Greece: A Home for Refugees: The Need for Housing Throughout Asylum Procedures and Beyond (pdf):

    "Having a place that can be called home is a universal need and a human right. Individuals fleeing violence and asking for asylum in the European Union strive to be safe and to rebuild their lives stepby- step in a country they do not know, often separated from the people they love and with little certainty about their future."

    Italy asks Sudan secret police to testify in mistaken identity case (Guardian, link):

    "Defence lawyer criticises use of witnesses from regime of ‘cold-blooded dictator’.

    Italian prosecutors have controversially invited two high-ranking Sudanese officials to Sicily to testify in the case against a suspected human trafficker who appears to be the victim of mistaken identity.

    Magistrates in the case are relying on testimony from the members of the feared secret police in Sudan, which is ruled by Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been charged with war crimes."

    No more civilian rescue boats off Libyan coast (Info Migrants, link):

    "The civilian rescue vessel Sea Watch 3, which was detained in Italy on Friday, is the latest of such boats to stop operations in the central Mediterranean. Now, only the Libyan Coast Guard is able to save migrants risking their lives at sea in an attempt to reach Europe from North Africa."

    More needs to be done to improve the situation of migrants and refugees on the Greek islands (Reliefweb, link):

    "The humanitarian situation of asylum seekers in the Reception and Identification Centres on Lesbos, Samos and Chios have remained critical for many years, the Committee on Migration warned. Many are housed in tents with inadequate sanitary installations, insufficient food, lacking health services and poor security."

    UK: It’s Time to Close Down the Police’s “Domestic Extremism” Databases (Netpol, link):

    "A European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgment in January, in a case brought by veteran peace campaigner John Catt, is extremely significant for the future of protest surveillance.

    For seven years John has argued that the decision by the police to retain extensive surveillance data about him on the secretive National Domestic Extremism Database was a violation of his privacy."

    Council and European Parliament agree provisionally two Regulations establishing "interoperable" Big Brother database

    A press release from the Council of the European Union says:

    "Today, the Romanian Presidency of the Council and representatives of the European Parliament reached a preliminary agreement on the two proposed regulations establishing a framework for interoperability between EU information systems in the area of justice and home affairs. The preliminary agreement will now be presented to EU ambassadors for confirmation on behalf of the Council."

    The Romanian Council Presidency said: "To make sure we detect those who pose a security threat or who are lying about their identity, competent authorities carrying out checks need to have a full picture of the person in front of them."

    See:
    Statewatch Observatory: Creation of a centralised Justice & Home Affairs database is "a point of no return".

    Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (29.1-4.2.19) including:

    Summit of the Southern European Union Countries – Nicosia Declaration (Cyprus Presidency, link):

    "17. Effective reform of the Common European Asylum System, through the swift adoption of the entire comprehensive package of interconnected legislative proposals, should guarantee solidarity and responsibility among the Member States. In addition, the disembarkation of rescued migrants in the Mediterranean should be addressed through permanent solutions, based on the principles of solidarity, responsibility and in the framework of international law, ensuring their order to safeguarding of lives in the Mediterranean. We take into account the pressure on those Member States that are most exposed and already contribute to the rescue of people in danger.

    18. Progress has already been achieved, as reflected by the decrease of detected illegal border crossings but migratory routes, such as those running through the Eastern, Central and Western Mediterranean, continue to require close attention. In this regard, the sustained and non-discriminatory implementation of the EU-Turkey Joint Statement of 18 March 2016 and the full and effective implementation of the EU-Turkey readmission agreement and cooperation with all EU Member States in Justice and Home Affairs matters remains essential..."

    An “Informal” Turn in the European Union’s Migrant Returns Policy towards Sub-Saharan Africa (Migration Policy Institute, link):

    "A not-insignificant share of the European Union’s resident irregular migrant population comes from sub-Saharan Africa. Even though estimates of the unauthorized population in EU Member States are notoriously imprecise, comparing the number of non-EU nationals (formally known as third-country nationals) ordered to leave with the number who departed suggests that the resident unauthorized population has grown by up to 3 million persons over the past ten years. And sub-Saharan African nationals accounted for around one-fourth of this growth, with a significant share coming from Nigeria (13 percent), Senegal (8 percent), and Eritrea (7 percent). Despite increased EU efforts in recent years to work with sub-Saharan countries to accept the return of their nationals, return rates remain low.

    ...An initial focus by the European Union on formal readmission agreements with migrant-origin countries has given way since 2016 to informal ones. This article examines this informal turn and explores the potential effect that nonbinding readmission pacts could have on migrant returns to sub-Saharan Africa, challenging the assumption that such agreements will have a significant effect on future return levels agreed upon by EU and African policymakers. The analysis also evaluates EU reliance on return totals as an indicator of policy effectiveness and questions whether policy success can be quantified, considering data and other limitations."

    Why Hungary's state-sponsored schoolbooks have teachers worried (CNN, link):

    "Budapest, Hungary (CNN) - Flick through a Hungarian history book for high school students, and you're left in no doubt about the government's view on migrants.

    The section on "Multiculturalism" opens with a photo of refugees camped under a Budapest railway station. Flanking the image is a speech given by strongman Prime Minister Viktor Orban on the perils of migration: "We consider it a value that Hungary is a homogenous country," he says.

    The state-sanctioned textbooks are part of a government shakeup of Hungary's education system that is causing deep unease among some teachers and publishers.

    Critics say the textbooks are just one front in a government crusade to remake the education system -- and the country -- in its Christian, nationalist image. Orban has also scrapped academic programs that don't fit with his conservative values, effectively forcing one of Hungary's leading universities to move its courses abroad."

    A useful summary: Europe’s Determination to Halt African Migration Makes Friends of Dictators (The Globe Post, link):

    "The integration of the Sudanese security services means that Europeans are working directly with officials involved in propping up al-Bashir’s regime. Among these agencies are the Rapid Support Forces, an organization fashioned out of the notorious Janjaweed, which terrorized the Darfur region in Western Sudan.

    An agreement between European and African states, signed in Malta in 2015, laid the foundations for this cooperation...

    This close cooperation has continued and been enhanced, despite the notoriety of the African regimes with which the E.U. has to work. Early in 2019 the role of chairing the Khartoum Process, which regulates this E.U.-African cooperation, will be taken by Eritrea. The fact that Eritrea has one of the worst human rights records in Africa – and is regularly referred to as the “North Korea” of the continent – appears to have given E.U. officials few sleepless nights."

    EU-BELARUS: Rights of refugees and migrants violated at EU-equipped borders (Danwatch, link):

    "For many years, Belarus has served as a transit country for refugees travelling from the former Soviet Union to Europe, primarily Poland, in search of asylum. Most of the refugees come from Russia, especially from the Chechen Republic.

    To limit irregular migration, the EU has made it a priority to provide training and border control equipment to the border authorities in countries along the EU’s eastern land borders. This includes Belarus, whose border authorities have received surveillance cameras, patrol cars and boats, from the EU in order to better detect people crossing their borders.

    The border authorities that received the equipment have been implicated in the pushbacks of refugees, however, in violation of their rights, in both 2017 and 2018."

    See also: New detention centres part of €7 million EU migration project in Belarus (Statewatch News Online, 1 February 2017)

    Outcry in Sweden Over Footage of Pregnant Black Woman Being Dragged From Train (The New York Times, link):

    "STOCKHOLM — Footage of security officers dragging a pregnant black woman off a Stockholm subway train and pinning her to a bench has caused an outcry in Sweden, raising questions about the treatment of minorities in a country often seen as a beacon of tolerance.

    Two security guards have been suspended and the police have begun an investigation into the encounter, officials said.

    Footage showed the woman shouting in protest and a child crying as the episode unfolded. The video was widely shared on social media, with many Swedes complaining that a black woman had been unfairly targeted. Some expressed shock that the child had been left crying while the woman was being overpowered by the guards.

    Many asked whether the guards, who appeared to be white, would have forcibly removed a pregnant white woman from the subway."

    FRANCE: France's top court upholds police use of controversial crowd control weapon (RFI, link):

    "France’s highest court, the Council of State has rejected calls to suspend the use of controversial non-lethal munitions that have been linked to several serious injuries at Yellow Vest protests, a day ahead of Act 12 of nationwide demonstrations.

    In a much anticipated response ahead of Saturday’s next round of Yellow Vest demonstrations, the court rejected a call by France’s Human Rights League and CGT trade union, which argued the weapons are unfit for use at demonstrations.

    The weapons in question are lanceurs de balles de defense, or LBDs, referred to as flash balls.

    They shoot projectiles such as rubber bullets that collapse or disperse on impact."

    See also: MANIFESTE CONTRE LES ARMES DE POLICE – APPEL A SIGNATURES (Désarmons-les!, link)

    European Parliament: Meetings between MEPs and lobbyists to be made public (euractiv, link):

    "A revision of the European Parliament’s rules of procedure, which was adopted on 31 January, increases transparency obligations for meetings between elected officials and lobbies, despite the EPP’s attempts to scupper the amendment. EURACTIV France reports."

    Are You Syrious (31.1.19, link):

    An average of six deaths every day in the sea in 2018

    "The UN Refugee Agency published 2018 Desperate Journey report showing a very dark picture of Europe today. Closed borders and hostile policies killed at least 2,275 people in the sea last year, while at least 44 per cent of people who crossed the sea to arrive to Italy, witnessed death on their journeys.

    At the same time, Save the Children organization issued a statement saying that among those who died since 2014, there are at least 640 children. Only this year, during 31 days, 64 children died not being able to reach the safety of EU." (...)


    What's New archives: carries all items that have been added or updated from News Online and Observatories.

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