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What's New on the Statewatch website: 2019
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Carries all items that have been added or updated to News Online and Observatories.

April 2019

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-TURKEY: 10,000 irregular migrants held in Turkey this year (Anadolu Agency, link):

"Some 10,000 irregular migrants were rounded up off Turkey's Aegean Sea coast in the last three months, security sources said.

Coast guard units held 5,729 migrants. Six migrants lost their lives due to drowning or hypothermia and 15 human smugglers were arrested.

Also, 3,919 migrants and 82 human smugglers were held by the land forces.

All of the migrants were later referred to provincial migration directorates.

Last year, 6,336 irregular migrants were held in Turkey."

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?"

CATALONIA: Government launches 'safe' ports plan for refugees and rescue boats (Catalan News, link):

"The Catalan government has launched an initiative bringing together several departments in order to make its ports "safe" for refugees and NGO rescue boats.

Speaking as the scheme started on Monday with the first meeting of the working group, the foreign minister reminded reporters that Catalonia does not have the power to grant migrants asylum, but does have control over reception and integration policy.

Alfred Bosch said the plan was a response to the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean and recognition of the "moral and political obligation" to welcome migrants, particularly in the face of what he denounced as the "inaction" of EU member states."

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",

Boat with 35 Migrant Travelers in Distress Refouled to Turkey (Alarmphone, link):

"In the early hours of April 11, the Alarm Phone was contacted by a boat with 35 people on board who had escaped from Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Somalia and were in distress at sea. The group included ten children, including infants, and five women, and there were individuals with severe war injuries on board. Our Alarm Phone shift team swiftly alerted the Greek Coastguard to the situation, at 4:57 am CEST, when the boat was clearly located in Greek territorial waters. Although we received several more GPS locations from the travelers later, which we forwarded to the Greek Coastguard, the Greek authorities informed us that the boat had been ‘found’ in Turkish waters."

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 becomes 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."

Rescue ship says Spain is blocking its bid to aid refugees in Greece (El Pais, link):

"A vessel operated by an NGO is trying to deliver humanitarian relief to Lesbos, but Spanish authorities say it needs a new permit despite having one from Portugal.

A Basque fishing vessel converted into a migrant rescue boat called the Aita Mari is having problems going to the Greek island of Lesbos, where it aims to deliver humanitarian aid to the thousands of refugees concentrated there."\

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)

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."

Joint Statement – the case of Alan Kurdi (sea-watch.org, link):

"We have learned that Sea-Eye’s rescue vessel, the ‘Alan Kurdi’, has finally been allowed to disembark the people who were rescued on April 3 when in distress on the Mediterranean Sea. These 64 people (of whom two were evacuated already due to medical emergencies) are allowed to reach land in Valletta/Malta after suffering through ten days of uncertainty at sea.

We are relieved that these people have finally reached firm land in a safe port in the EU but we by no means consider this case a victory. Instead, it was once again a shameful episode in which EU member states unnecessarily prolonged an emergency at sea, the very same countries and institutions who now declare this a successful solution."

Malta announces deal on migrants stranded on Sea-Eye ship (DW, link):

"Malta says some 60 migrants stranded off its coast in the Sea-Eye charity vessel will be taken by four EU countries. It said none of the migrants were to remain in Malta.

The Maltese government said on Saturday that more than 60 migrants stranded at sea for more than a week on the German rescue ship would be taken in by four EU countries after a deal was reached with the European Commission.

"Through the coordination of the European Commission, with the cooperation of Malta, the migrants on board the NGO vessel Alan Kurdi will be redistributed among four EU states: Germany, France, Portugal and Luxembourg," a government statement said.".

Moving Stories - Abshir’s (Samos Chronicles, link):

"Just over a week ago Abshir, from Somalia, was transferred from Samos to a mainland refugee camp at Nea Kavala in northern Greece. He was part of around 350 refugees taken that day from Samos as part of the Government’s attempt to ease pressure on the massively overcrowded camp in Vathi. All of them left on the ferry to Athens and in Abshir’s case with some others, he was bussed north. In all a journey of nearly 24 hours. No food or drink provided.

Abshir was very nervous about this move. He did not want to leave Samos. After 5 months this shy gay young man from Somalia was at last feeling more comfortable."

Trapped refugees must be released and granted safety from Tripoli fighting (MSF, link):

"Fighting that has broken out in Tripoli has further trapped refugees and migrants held in detention centres

- MSF is extremely concerned for the wellbeing of civilians and refugees and migrants caught in the fighting

- We reiterate our call to allow refugees and migrants held in detention to be released to an area of safety and to increase the capacity of search and rescue in the Mediterranean Sea."

The Mediterranean battlefield of migration (opendemocracy.net,link):

"What plays out off the coast of Libya are forms of mass abduction that are not merely tolerated but strategically organised and orchestrated by European governments and its coastguards."

Stranded migrant boat appeals to Europe for port after eight days at sea (Reuters, link):

"A charity ship with scores of African migrants on board appealed to European states for a safe port on Thursday after being stranded for eight days between Malta and Italy, saying the health of the rescued people was worsening."

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.

Refugees on stranded NGO rescue ship in 'poor state' (DW, link)

"The Sea-Eye rescue ship Alan Kurdi is anchored off the coast of Malta with over 60 refugees on board. The vessel has been forbidden to dock. Sea-Eye spokesperson Carlotta Weibl spoke with DW about the situation."

Switzerland: Authorities must drop absurd charges against priest who showed compassion to asylum-seeker (AI, link):

"Pastor Norbert Valley, who was taken from his Sunday service by police for questioning, is charged with “facilitating the illegal stay” of a Togolese man. Following his refusal to pay a fine of 1,000 Swiss Francs, the Public Prosecutor will decide tomorrow whether to issue an indictment."

Greece in Denial About Police Detention of Lone Kids - Athens Fails to Act on European Court Ruling Against Detaining Migrant Kids (HRW, link):

"The European Court of Human Rights recently confirmed what many have long known: that Greece’s practice of locking up unaccompanied migrant and asylum-seeking children in police cells and detention centers leads to serious rights abuses.

But despite that ruling, as of March 30, 82 unaccompanied children were still detained in so-called “protective custody,” held in police station cells or immigrant detention centers across the country."

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."

Migratory situation in March – Eastern Mediterranean accounts for most of all irregular migrants (Frontex, link):

"In March, the number of detections of illegal border crossings on Europe’s main migratory routes fell by 7% from the previous month to nearly 4 600, mainly due to a drop in migrant arrivals in Spain. The total for the first quarter of 2019 was 13% lower than a year ago at around 17 900."

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"

Illegal migrants stopped in Edirne as rumors spark exodus to Europe (Daily Sabah, link):

"From highways to railroads, everywhere seems to be teeming with illegal migrants in Edirne. This northwestern province bordering Greece is a common route for migrants, but it is rare for migrants to arrive en masse to Edirne, hoping to sneak into Greece. More than 2,000 illegal migrants were intercepted by security forces in the province since April 4, and this new trend is attributed to rumors on social media accompanied with fake news that the border crossing will be opened for migrants traveling to Europe.Security forces work around the clock in areas near the border and in downtown Edirne and try to persuade migrants with the proper paperwork to go back to the cities they arrived from. Others without documents are accommodated at migrant centers in the province. Scenes in Edirne are reminiscent of another mass illegal migrant attempt four years ago when Syrian migrants heard rumors that European countries would admit more refugees."

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.

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.”

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-TURKEY: 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:

Analysis: Italy's redefinition of sea rescue as a crime draws on EU policy for inspiration

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

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."

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

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

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

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

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."

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

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

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

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."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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."

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

On board the Alan Kurdi, a ship blocked in application of a recent directive issued by the Italian interior ministry. It appears the ship is heading for Malta after having been denied entry into Italian waters.

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)

AYS on criminalisation, pushbacks in EU Parliament (link)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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."

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."

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."

Money against Migration: The EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (Heinrich Böll Stiftung, link):

"The EU-Africa migration summit in Valletta in November 2015 gave birth to a new European funding instrument: the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF). Halfway through the implementation period, this study aims to take a detailed look at the allocation mechanism and distribution of funds under the EUTF, to examine which objectives, countries and actors have actually been supported and which ones are no longer a focus of the attention of development and migration policy. It comes to the conclusion that the implementation of migration policy projects supported by EUTF funding primarily benefits the (wealthier) member states of the EU."

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."

Building walls: Fear and securitization in the European Union (TNI, link):

"Member states of the European Union and Schengen Area have constructed almost 1000 km of walls, the equivalent of more than six times the total length of the Berlin Walls, since the nineties to prevent displaced people migrating into Europe. These physical walls are accompanied by even longer ‘maritime walls’, naval operations patrolling the Mediterranean, as well as ‘virtual walls’, border control systems that seek to stop people entering or even traveling within Europe, and control movement of population."

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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