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What's New on the Statewatch website: 2020
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Carries all items that have been added or updated to News Online and Observatories.

March 2020

From Windrush to Covid 19: another scandal in the making (IRR News, link): by Frances Webber:

"A review of differential policies towards different populations draws attention to the ways in which civil society is mobilising to demand protection and an end to the stigmatisation of those with no escape from infection.

The growing coronavirus crisis has exposed many faultlines in the UK and in Europe, and in particular, governments’ treatment of refugees, asylum seekers and other vulnerable and marginalised populations including prisoners and homeless people, carries disquieting echoes."

UK police use drones and roadblocks to enforce lockdown (Guardian, link):

"A police force has defended using a drone camera to shame people into not driving into a national park during the lockdown, while another force said it was introducing roadblocks to stop drivers heading to tourist hotspots.

A new law came into effect on Thursday allowing police to use force to make people return home.

Derbyshire police tweeted drone footage taken near Curbar Edge, in the Peak District, and said they had checked the numberplates of vehicles in the car park and found that some cars were registered to addresses in Sheffield, a 30-minute drive away."

UK: Police given new powers (link)

""he government has today (26 March 2020) made new public health regulations strengthening police enforcement powers in England, to reduce the spread of coronavirus, protect the NHS and save lives. (...)

Participating in gatherings of more than two people in public spaces is also not permitted except in very limited circumstances,"

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

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

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

ENAC: autorizzati i droni per il monitoraggio (link):

The Italian civil aviation authority (ENAC, Ente Nazionale Aviazione Civile) has authorised the use of drones on city streets to strengthen the capabilities of police forces and municipal councils. Previous limits for their use that centred on the risk of drones causing damage to people and things in ordinary circumstances may not apply, considering that sidewalks are empty and streets are clear, meaning that drones are useful to monitor gatherings. Derogations to these norms are motivated as follows:

"With a view to guaranteeing the containment of the epidemiological 'coronavirus' emergency, in order to allow operations to monitor the movement of citizens in the municipal territory envisaged in the decrees of the President of the Council of Ministers (PM) of 8 and 9 March 2020, it becomes necessary to derogate from some provisions of the measures in the ENAC Regulation on 'Remotely Piloted Aircraft', 3rd edition of November 2019."

European Commission: State of play as regards the situation of non-reciprocity in the area of visa policy (COIM 119, 2020, pdf);

"the Commission currently considers that the adoption of a delegated act temporarily suspending the exemption from the visa requirement for nationals of the United States would be counterproductive at this point in time and it would not serve to achieve the objective of visa-free travel for all EU citizens.

In this context, it is essential that the EU continues to speak with one voice on this important matter. The Commission will continue to work closely with the European Parliament and with the Council to achieve full visa reciprocity and will keep the European Parliament and the Council informed on the further developments. "

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

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

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

Hungary’s state of emergency law is a ‘blank cheque’ to Orban, critics say (EUactiv, link):

"A draft Hungarian law allowing the government to rule by decree during the state of emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic risks staying in place indefinitely, the opposition has warned.

The Hungarian parliament is due to consider a draft law that would keep the decrees issued under the state of emergency in force until further notice."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (17-23.3.20) including:

  • Anti-migration cooperation between the EU, Italy and Libya: some truths
  • Erdogan in talks with European leaders over refugee cash for Turkey
  • COVID-19: No one is safe until All are protected!
  • Two new analyses and one new briefing: EU-Italy-Libya cooperation; Spanish migration policies

    Statewatch is today publishing three new in-depth pieces, examining anti-migration cooperation between the EU, Italy and Libya; the renewal of Italy's Memorandum of Understanding with Libya and the accompanying parliamentary debate; and a briefing outlining demands for the new Spanish government to ensure that its migration policy respects human rights.

    Briefing: Spain: Migrants' rights must be guaranteed and put at the core of measures taken by the government (pdf):

    The member organisations of the Euro-African network Migreurop based in Spain express deep concern regarding the proposed policy at the southern border announced by the interior ministry and the ECHR sentence backing ‘hot returns’. We thus present to the new government our proposals in the field of migration and international protection aimed at guaranteeing migrants’ rights.

    Statewatch Analysis: Italy renews Memorandum with Libya, as evidence of a secret Malta-Libya deal surfaces (pdf) by Yasha Maccanico:

    The 2017 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Italy and Libya was tacitly renewed without amendments on 2 February 2020, amid widespread criticism over its legality and effects since October 2019. This article outlines the parliamentary debate that accompanied the interior minister's declared intention to renew the MoU in November 2019.

    Statewatch Analysis: Anti-migration cooperation between the EU, Italy and Libya: some truths (pdf) by Yasha Maccanico:

    Apart from a regression in human rights standards that immigration policy is producing within the EU's borders by promoting racism in politics and institutional discrimination in pursuit of its strategic objectives, the effects of EU migration policy's externalisation to third countries are also harmful.

    UK: Anthony Grainger shooting: Six officers under investigation (BBC News, link):

    "Six officers are under investigation by the police watchdog in connection with the fatal shooting of an unarmed man.

    Anthony Grainger, 36, was in a stolen car when he was shot in the chest by a firearms officer in Culcheth, Cheshire.

    The retired and serving officers from Greater Manchester Police (GMP) are being investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

    A public inquiry into the 2012 shooting criticised senior officers for "failings and errors"."

    See: IOPC begins new investigations relating to the death of Anthony Grainger (IOPC, link)

    Respect Rights in COVID-19 Response (Human Rights Watch, link):

    "(New York) – Governments should respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by prioritizing the right to health for all and respect for human rights, Human Rights Watch said today in a new report.

    The report, “Human Rights Dimensions of the COVID-19 Response,” analyzes government obligations and the human rights concerns posed by the coronavirus outbreak along with examples of responses so far. Human Rights Watch proposes recommendations for governments to address the outbreak while respecting fundamental human rights, including the rights to health, free expression, nondiscrimination, and freedom of movement.

    ...Governments should avoid sweeping and overly broad restrictions on movement and personal liberty, rely upon voluntary social distancing, and move toward mandatory restrictions only when scientifically warranted and necessary and when systems to support those affected can be ensured. When quarantines or lockdowns are imposed, governments are obligated to ensure access to food, water, health care, and care-giving support. They should address the special concerns of people in prisons, jails, and migrant detention centers, older people, and people with disabilities in institutions."

    IRELAND: Coronavirus legal response: Dáil passes emergency Covid-19 legislation (RTÉ, link):

    "The new laws will allow the State to shut down mass gatherings and to potentially order groups of people in certain areas to stay in their homes.

    There are regulations too that would allow for the detention of a person, on foot of a medical recommendation, if they refuse to self-isolate.

    Minister for Health Simon Harris proposed that the new powers of detention contained in the Bill remain in place until 9 November.

    He said the powers would only be used in the public interest to keep people well, adding that picking a date was an arbitrary process and it was prudent to pick November.

    The Minister also said that the legislation would empower authorities to shut down house parties."

    See: COVID-19 emergency legislation: everything you need to know. (Irish Council for Civil Liberties, link)


    "The Government’s hostile environment is stopping migrants from accessing healthcare – making them acutely vulnerable to the coronavirus, rights groups have warned.

    Liberty, Medact and JCWI are among more than 30 groups to warn this not only puts the most vulnerable at risk – it also undermines the Government’s attempts to control the coronavirus and protect public health.

    In a letter to the Home Secretary, the coalition is calling for an immediate suspension of all NHS charging and data-sharing between the NHS Trusts and immigration enforcement. This is necessary so that migrants can access healthcare free from the fear that their details could be handed to the Home Office and put them at risk of detention or deportation."

    And see: Coronavirus Bill Second Reading: Universal Access to Healthcare (JCWI, link to pdf)

    UK: "Two Years Is Too Long" for "Draconian" Coronavirus Bill, Warn MPs & Rights Groups (Big Brother Watch, link):

    "Parliamentarians and rights groups have today issued an urgent warning that the two year duration of the emergency Coronavirus Bill is too long, ahead of the Government’s attempt to push the Bill through the House of Commons this afternoon.

    In a joint letter, led by civil liberties group Big Brother Watch and published in today’s Telegraph, the group warns that the Bill contains “the most draconian powers ever proposed in peace-time Britain” and urges for a more proportionate time limit.

    Signatories include former Minister David Davis MP, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott MP, Joanna Cherry QC MP and Acting Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Ed Davey MP, who are all backing an amendment to shorten the duration of the Bill to six months."

    HUNGARY: Orbán introduces 'Enabling Act' in the name of fighting coronavirus (Hungarian Spectrum, link):

    "Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán never lets a crisis go to waste. Friday, he put before the Hungarian Parliament a law that would give him dictatorial powers under cover of declaring a state of emergency to fight the coronavirus. Parliament could vote on this law as early as Monday.

    The law creates two new crimes. Anyone who publicizes false or distorted facts that interfere with the “successful protection” of the public – or that alarm or agitate that public – could be punished by up to five years in prison. And anyone who interferes with the operation of a quarantine or isolation order could also face a prison sentence of up to five years, a punishment that increases to eight years if anyone dies as a result.

    ...These two new crimes would not be, strictly speaking, emergency powers. They would be permanent changes to the criminal law. They would not go away when the emergency is over.

    Alarming though those new crimes are, the provisions of this law that implicate separation of powers are even more disturbing and would end the appearance of constitutional and democratic government. (The reality of constitutional and democratic government ended some time ago, but appearances were maintained.) Under this pending emergency law, Orbán would govern alone."

    See: Legal scholars and opposition politicians condemn Orbán’s “Enabling Act”; Translation of draft law “On Protecting Against the Coronavirus” (Hungarian Spectrum, link) and: EU Commission: no comment on Hungary's virus bill (EUobserver, link)

    ISRAEL: Mossad bungles coronavirus test purchases: Israeli spies source up to 100,000 coronavirus tests in covert mission (The Guardian, link):

    "Israel’s secretive Mossad intelligence agency launched a covert international operation this week to fly in up to 100,000 coronavirus testing kits, although the effort may have been in vain as critical parts were reportedly missing.

    Domestic news outlets, citing government and health officials, reported that the secrecy of the operation was because the kits were acquired from at least two unnamed countries that do not have good diplomatic relations with Israel, meaning the government could not openly buy them.

    ...The Israeli news website Ynet had earlier quoted the health ministry deputy director general, Itamar Grotto, as saying the kits were missing swabs, which are used to take samples from the nose or the back of the throat.

    “Unfortunately, what arrived is not exactly what we were lacking … Our problem is we’re missing swabs,” he said."

    EU-ERITREA: European Commission: We will fight forced labour in Eritrea by financing projects that use it

    "...The EU-funded project only finances the procurement and supply of material and equipment — the EU does not pay for labour..."

    #Euroleaks: the full 2015 Eurogroup recordings now public! (DiEM 25, link):

    "Today, March 14, 2020, the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25) is releasing the complete audio files of Yanis Varoufakis’ Eurogroup meetings in 2015 on: euroleaks.diem25.org!

    During 2015 Yanis Varoufakis participated in thirteen Eurogroup meetings. After the first three Eurogroup meetings it became clear that no minutes were being taken!

    This kind of intransparent action by an unelected group of politicians who influence all our lives is unacceptable. That is why DiEM25 is today releasing the recordings of the meetings of the Eurogroup from 2015."

    UK Bill a License for Military Crimes? Law Would Stymie Prosecution of Armed Forces for Abuses (Human Rights Watch, link):

    "Given the distractions of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s likely the proposed new law from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government on overseas military operations will get far less attention than it deserves. If passed, the bill would greatly increase the risk that British soldiers who commit serious crimes will avoid justice.

    The proposed law, the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill, would create a “presumption against prosecution” for members of the United Kingdom armed forces accused of crimes, including torture, committed overseas more than five years earlier. The government asserts this will protect UK forces from “vexatious” prosecutions – a dubious claim, given there have been hardly any such criminal trials. Even though British civil courts and public inquiries having found extensive evidence of torture by UK forces in Iraq after 2003. In addition, the UK government has paid out millions of pounds to Iraqis who alleged abuse by UK forces."

    See: Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill (pdf)

    Stuck under a cloud of suspicion: Profiling in the EU (EDRi, link):

    "As facial recognition technologies are gradually rolled out in police departments across Europe, anti-racism groups blow the whistle on the discriminatory over-policing of racialised communities linked to the increasing use of new technologies by law enforcement agents. In a report by the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) and the Open Society Justice Initiative, daily police practices supported by specific technologies – such as crime analytics, the use of mobile fingerprinting scanners, social media monitoring and mobile phone extraction – are analysed, to uncover their disproportionate impact on racialised communities.

    Beside these local and national policing practices, the European Union (EU) has also played an important role in developing police cooperation tools that are based on data-driven profiling. Exploiting the narrative according to which criminals abuse the Schengen and free movement area, the EU justifies the mass monitoring of the population and profiling techniques as part of its Security Agenda. Unfortunately, no proper democratic debate is taking place before the technologies are deployed."

    UK at last follows other EU states: UK pubs and restaurants told to shut in virus fight (BBC News, link):

    "Cafes, pubs and restaurants must close from Friday night, except for take-away food, to tackle coronavirus, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

    All the UK's nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres have also been told to close "as soon as they reasonably can".

    Mr Johnson said the situation will be reviewed each month. (...)

    The announcement about closures follows similar measures taken in other countries - including in Ireland, where pubs and bars were asked to close from last Sunday.

    Speaking at a daily Downing Street press briefing, Mr Johnson said the measures would be enforced "strictly" and that licensing arrangements will make doing so "relatively simple"." (emphasis added)

    UK: Coronavirus Bill (pdf) and Explanatory Note (pdf)

    And see: Police and health officials to get powers to detain under UK coronavirus bill - Bill allows police and officials to order anyone believed to be infected to undergo testing (Guardian, link);

    "Police, public health and immigration officers will be able to detain people suspected of having Covid-19 and exact £1,000 fines for refusing tests under emergency powers rolled out by the UK government. (...)

    Immigration officers and police will also be handed powers to send people for screening and testing and hold them for a period of time before a public health officer can be consulted.(...)

    In a letter to Johnson, Corbyn said people understood the need for temporary restrictions. He added: “But given how far-reaching these are proposed to be, people’s elected representatives must be able to decide whether to renew the legislation at least every six months, up to its expiration after two years.”

    UK privacy activists raise fears over social distancing tracking - Mobile phone operators’ data could be used to monitor success of coronavirus policy (Guardian, link):

    "Privacy campaigners have warned that a UK government plan to use mobile phone data to track the success of the social distancing policy needs to be carried out with “radical transparency” because of the authoritarian possibilities.

    The Guardian reported on Thursday that BT and O2 have talked to the government about providing the data, which would be delayed by 12 to 24 hours and stripped of individual identifiers, to help the government assess whether people are following advice to avoid pubs, bars and restaurants.

    Big Brother Watch said it was concerning that the deals had been struck in secret. “We need further explanation and much more transparency,” said Silkie Carlo, the privacy group’s director."

    Samos Refugees: We see a Darkness (Samos, Chronicles, link):

    "For the refugees, coronavirus is a fused bomb. When, rather than if it blows it will be devastating. The appalling conditions in which refugees are held which blatantly contradict all the government’s instructions on hygiene and overcrowding make the camps and detention facilities exceptionally vulnerable to the virus. The police describe the island camps as “health bombs”.

    The police associations from Samos, Lesvos, Chios and the North and South Dodecanese are now demanding urgent action. The timing of their intervention is driven by the extremely cruel and unhealthy conditions for the 1,414 refugees who arrived on the islands after March 1st 2020. Following the Act passed on March 2 2020 all new arrivals are denied the right to apply for asylum. This is a major breach of international law, but more of that later. There is no registration or identification procedures for these new arrivals who are kept away from the pre March deadline refugees and detained, as the police noted in their letter to the government (14/3/2020);

    Stacked like animals in temporary and inadequate infrastructure acting as ticking health bombs. On Samos there are 93 foreigners in a room of the Port Authority without a toilet or water supply.”

    Erdogan in talks with European leaders over refugee cash for Turkey (The Guardian, link):

    "Turkey has pressed European leaders to make fresh cash pledges to prevent tens of thousands of refugees from leaving the country and trying to reach Europe amid a Russian-Syrian offensive in north-west Syria.

    After intense bombardment in Idlib province last month, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, encouraged thousands of refugees in the country to move on towards the Greek islands and the Baltics, in a repeat of the surge to Europe in 2015.

    That push ended when the EU gave Turkey €6bn to house the refugees in Turkey. Nearly €4.7bn has been contractually awarded, but only about €3.2bn paid out.

    In a phone call on Tuesday between the French president, Emmanuel Macron, the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and Erdogan, the leaders discussed the possibility of a new refugee deal, ways to combat the continued Russian threat in Idlib, and the fear that coronavirus could sweep through the refugee camps bordering Syria in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan."

    BELGIUM: Service providers in Belgium should not have to report irregular migrants, says Council of Europe’s anti-racism watchdog (Council of Europe, link):

    "Strasbourg, 18.03.2020 – Belgium should ensure that no service provider, either in the public or private sector, is required to report people suspected of being irregularly present in the country to the authorities responsible for immigration control and enforcement, in order to protect their fundamental rights.

    The Belgian authorities should also make sure that the committee responsible for evaluating federal anti-discrimination laws has enough resources to resume and expand the scope of its work, in consultation with civil society organisations.

    These two recommendations are highlighted as requiring priority implementation in the latest report on Belgium from the Council of Europe’s Commission on Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), published today (see Dutch and French versions of the report)."

    See: ECRI report on Belgium (sixth monitoring cycle) (pdf)

    UK: Undercover policing inquiry: secretive Met unit shredded files (The Guardian, link):

    "A secretive Scotland Yard intelligence unit shredded a large number of documents after a public inquiry was set up into the undercover infiltration of political groups, a watchdog has found.

    The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) announced on Wednesday that it had found that documents had been destroyed despite an instruction that they had to be preserved.

    The watchdog found that an unnamed officer would have faced a disciplinary hearing on a charge of gross misconduct if he or she had not already retired from the Metropolitan police. Any officer found guilty of gross misconduct would be likely to be sacked.

    The watchdog said a number of former managers had refused to cooperate with its inquiry. It said the investigation had uncovered serious failings within the intelligence unit."

    See: Materials that may have been relevant to undercover policing inquiry were shredded by Metropolitan Police personnel (IOPC, link)

    Open access book: Europe and the Refugee Response: A Crisis of Values? (Routledge, link):

    "This book explores how the rising numbers of refugees entering Europe from 2015 onwards played into fears of cultural, religious, and ethnic differences across the continent. The migrant, or refugee crisis, prompted fierce debate about European norms and values, with some commentators questioning whether mostly Muslim refugees would be able to adhere to these values, and be able to integrate into a predominantly Christian European society. In this volume, philosophers, legal scholars, anthropologists and sociologists, analyze some of these debates and discuss practical strategies to reconcile the values that underpin the European project with multiculturalism and religious pluralism, whilst at the same time safeguarding the rights of refugees to seek asylum.

    Country case studies in the book are drawn from France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom; representing states with long histories of immigration, countries with a more recent refugee arrivals, and countries that want to keep refugees at bay and refuse to admit even the smallest number of asylum seekers. Contributors in the book explore the roles which national and local governments, civil society, and community leaders play in these debates and practices, and ask what strategies are being used to educate refugees about European values, and to facilitate their integration."

    Over 400 migrants returned to Libya over weekend (InfoMigrants, link):

    "Over 400 migrants have been picked up by the Libyan coast guard and returned to Libya over the weekend. That’s according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which called the action “unacceptable.”

    The UN organization for migration decried the fact that this weekend, over 400 Europe-bound migrants were returned to Libya by the Libyan coast guard in several operations. The IOM counted 301 people who were intercepted and taken back to Tripoli on Saturday, March 14 and a further 105 on two different boats on Sunday, March 15.

    The IOM communications officer Safa Msehli said: "It is unacceptable for this to continue despite repeated calls to put an end to the return of vulnerable people to detention and abuse.""

    And see: 49 asylum seekers in Maltese waters taken back to Libya and beaten - NGO (Times of Malta, link)

    Existence of secret body confirmed, no meaningful details provided: Hostile state activity assessment body announced (Home Office, link):

    "The Home Secretary today publicly confirmed the existence of an organisation established to better understand the threat of hostile state activity and inform the government’s response.

    The joint state threats assessment team (JSTAT) was created in 2017 in response to the increased and evolving threat the UK faces from hostile states.

    ...Like other independent assessment bodies, including the joint terrorism analysis centre, JSTAT reports to a governance board comprising senior officials from across the UK intelligence community and wider government departments. The Director General of MI5 has ultimate responsibility for the organisation."

    See: Joint State Threats Assessment Team (MI5, link)

    UK: End deportation flights!: resisting the new authoritarianism (Verso, link):

    "On February 11, a mass deportation flight to Jamaica departed from Doncaster Airport, UK, carrying seventeen people. At the same time the government announced an emergency law to imprison people convicted of “terror offences” for longer, and the Metropolitan police deployed facial recognition technology on the streets of London. In this article, Gracie Mae Bradley and Luke de Noronha analyse the authoritarian context of the new series of charter flights for so-called ‘foreign criminals’, and how to resist it."

    COVID-19: No one is safe until All are protected! (Transbalkan Solidarity Group, link):

    "Currently there are tens of thousands of refugees and other migrants in the Balkans. Some of them are accommodated in official collective centers, while a large number of people fall outside the system, surviving through the help of the local population and support provided to them by volunteers throughout the region. Yet with the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the already difficult situation in which they find themselves is becoming even more challenging and demands urgent action of those in charge – local and international actors – and solidarity from all of us.

    The State of Emergency now in force in many countries of the region is a basis for the continuation and reinforcement of social inequalities and unfortunately is already serving as a rationale for the further stigmatization and repression of the most unprotected among us. But this exceptional situation must not become an excuse for continued policies of exclusion, restriction and expulsion, suffering and distress."

    And see: Us versus them? Covid-19 and its effects (MPC, link): "We now see that every one of us can suddenly can become vulnerable. As humans, we have much more in common, than what divides us: our fears, our anxieties, and how we react in difficult situations. Our humanity is also our strength, being able to put ourselves into the shoes of others, now more than ever."

    UNHCR: Key Legal Considerations on access to territory for persons in need of international protection in the context of the COVID-19 response (pdf):

    "This paper sets out key legal considerations, based on international refugee and human rights law, on access to territory for persons seeking international protection in the context of measures taken by States to restrict the entry of non-nationals for the protection of public health in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It reconfirms that while States may put in place measures which may include a health screening or testing of persons seeking international protection upon entry and/or putting them in quarantine, such measures may not result in denying them an effective opportunity to seek asylum or result in refoulement."

    And see: EU border restrictions will hit transfers of child refugees - UN official (Thomson Reuters Foundation, link)

    UK: This UK Government-Funded AI Programme Wants to Make ‘Face Recognition Ubiquitous’. (But Sure, We're Probably Being Paranoid About Face Surveillance) (Privacy International, link):

    "The UK’s Metropolitan Police have began formally deploying Live Facial Recognition technology across London, claiming that it will only be used to identify serious criminals on “bespoke ‘watch lists’” and on “small, targeted” areas.

    Yet, at the same time, the UK’s largest police force is also listed as a collaborator in a UK government-funded research programme explicitly intended to "develop unconstrained face recognition technology", aimed “at making face recognition ubiquitous by 2020".

    The £6.1m programme, which also includes the Home Office, various biometrics companies, and a University in China – home to some of the most pervasive face surveillance in the world – shows how governments are investing in facial recognition technology designed for mass surveillance."

    Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (10-16.3.20) including:

    EU: Little new on migration in Commission's plan for a "comprehensive strategy with Africa"

    Last week the European Commission published a communication setting out a plan for a "comprehensive strategy with Africa", which includes "migration and mobility" amongst its five key themes. The document is intended to frame talks between the EU and the AU as they move towards a summit in October this year.

    ITALY: Coronavirus: critical situation in prisons and detention centres

    A note issued on 12 March by the ombudsman for people denied their freedom in jails and places of detention on describes the situation as "relatively" calm, despite problems resulting from disturbances and violence in numerous prisons in the past days.

    ITALY: Coronavirus: military personnel given police powers to enforce restrictions on mobility and presence in the streets

    On 12 March 2020, Italian press agency ANSA reported the contents of an interior ministry circular issued concerning restrictions on mobility first decreed on 23 February and repeatedly expanded upon in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, from Lombardy and 14 provinces (the initial "red zone") to the entire national territory. Presence on the streets must be duly motivated in a justification form, for essential activities, going to work and essential shopping.

    Xenophobia and racism are killing people on the Greek-Turkish border! The European Union is also! (Gisti, link):

    "Over the past few days, people have been killed on the Greek-Turkish border! This is a direct consequence of political decisions by European leaders who would like to seal off European Union borders at all costs, notably by subcontracting the examination of asylum applications to non-European States and the encampment of undesirables. Everyday brings new unbearable images showing asylum seekers being pushed out or deliberately put in danger.


    A recently established coalition of organisations against border violence has announced that complaints will be lodged against Greece and the EU for violating the rights of people fleeing Turkey. States and the EU decision-makers behind them must not be allowed to commit such abuses with impunity.

    We support this initiative and call for protest rallies wherever possible. A demonstration is planned at Place de la République in Paris on 18 March at 6:30 p.m. Videos denouncing the border violence are to be shown. "

    The European Parliament must intervene to stop violence, the use of force and human rights violations at the EU-Turkey border (change.org, link):

    "We call on the European Parliament and the political groups representing the EU citizens to stop violence and the use of force against defenseless people at the EU-Turkey border and to restore legality and respect for human rights, firstly the right of asylum.

    What is happening is the result of wrong choices made with the aim of externalizing borders and preventing people fleeing from wars and persecutions from arriving in Europe to seek protection.

    Brussels considers pan-EU police searches of ID photos (Politico, link):

    "Ready for your closeup? Your face could soon be included in police databases searchable by law enforcement across the European Union.

    The Council of the EU has been advised to include photos of the Continent’s residents in a network of databases that could be searched by police using facial recognition software, according to an internal report circulated by the Austrian government and obtained by POLITICO.

    These photos could include pictures culled from driver’s licenses and passports, if another recommendation obtained by POLITICO and circulated by the Finnish presidency of the Council last year were to be adopted."

    Council of the EU documents on: Facial recognition (13356/19, pdf), vehicle registration data (11264/19, pdf), fingerprints (13556/19, pdf) and DNA (13511/19, pdf) and: Presentation on the TELEFI project (pdf)

    Germany puts far-right AfD's 'Wing' group under surveillance (DW, link):

    "Germany's domestic security agency will run surveillance on the far-right Alternative for Germany's (AfD) most nationalistic group, the agency's president announced on Thursday.

    The step designates the AfD group known as the "Wing" ("Flügel") as a far-right extremist group warranting observation from security forces.

    "The Wing evidently has extremist intentions," said Thomas Haldenwang, the president of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution — Germany's domestic security agency."

    UK: The Impact of Christchurch Terror Attack | Tell MAMA Interim report 2019 (Tell MAMA, link):

    "REVEALED: 1 Year-On After the Christchurch Terror attacks, Tell MAMA Reveals a 692% Increase in Anti-Muslim Hatred that Spiked in the UK After the Attacks...

    In the week following the terror attacks in Christchurch, incidents reported to Tell MAMA increased by 692%, with 12 incidents recorded in the previous week (March 8 – 14) and 95 the following week (March 15 – 21).

    The terror attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand had a significant effect in the UK, resulting in a rapid but long-lasting increase in anti-Muslim hatred and Islamophobia."

    Report ‘Follow the Money III’ - Solidarity: The use of AMIF funds to Incentivise Resettlement and Relocation in the EU (ECRE, link):

    "The third ‘Follow the Money’ report maps and assesses the use of financial incentives (lump sums) allocated under the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) to EU Member States (MS) participating in refugee resettlement and intra-EU relocation. The four case studies, France, Italy Portugal and Slovenia provide a range of national contexts and practices within the role and impact of EU funding is explored. The research draws on the first two ‘Follow the Money’ studies published by ECRE and UNHCR in 2017 and 2018 tracking the use of AMIF for asylum, integration and return.

    Member States resettled 76,205 persons during 2014-18, via both EU schemes and national programmes with uneven participation among MS. The study finds that the funding under the lump sum modality, €6,000 per resettled person, increasing to €10,000 when the resettled person falls into one of the categories included under common Union resettlement priorities, is an effective mechanism to provide EU funding. The reduction or removal would most likely lead to reductions in resettlement numbers and/or programmes that offer less support to resettled persons."

    ECRE on the situation for refugees in Greece: Weekly Editorial: About Time Too (link):

    "At the EU-Turkey border the situation remains alarming, and ECRE continued to speak out against the actions of the Greek government and the apparent support from the EU’s political leadership, and to promote the alternative response set out in our statement and urged by Greek NGOs. It is a relief though to see some signs of a change in approach.

    On Thursday, Commissioner Johansson gave an interview to the Guardian which contained a warning to Greece on the need to respect the right to asylum; this was – hopefully – followed by a presentation of these warnings in person during her visit to the country.

    Separately, the Commission announced a plan to relocate to other Member States 1600 children from the Greek islands, a very welcome initiative, and one that ECRE and others have supported for years... All these developments are though just the first steps towards a positive and rights-based approach from Europe; following through on it will require the following."

    See also: EU to take in some child migrants stuck in Greece (BBC News, link): "Five EU countries [Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Portugal] have agreed to take in some migrant children who are stuck in Greece, amid continuing tension on the Greek-Turkish border."

    Turkey Steps Back From Confrontation at Greek Border (New York Times, link):

    "BRUSSELS — Turkey has signaled that it is winding down its two-week operation to aid the movement of tens of thousands of people toward Europe, following a tough on-the-ground response from Greek border guards and a tepid diplomatic reaction from European politicians.

    Migrants at the Greek-Turkish land border began to be transported back to Istanbul by bus this week, witnesses at the border said, de-escalating a standoff that initially set off fears of another European migration crisis. Greek officials said the number of attempted border crossings had dwindled from thousands a day to a few hundred, and none were successful on Friday, even as sporadic exchanges of tear-gas with Turkish security forces continued.

    Also Friday, Turkish officials announced that three human smugglers had each been sentenced to 125 years in prison for their roles in the death of a Syrian toddler, Alan Kurdi, whose drowning came to epitomize an earlier migration crisis, in 2015.

    That announcement and the week’s other developments were interpreted by experts and European politicians as signals to Europe that the Turkish authorities were once again willing to police their borders and quell a second wave of migration."

    The EU Is Abandoning Italy in Its Hour of Need (Foreign Policy, link):

    "Italy is in lockdown. Schools and universities are closed, soccer games suspended, and restaurant visits banned amid a rapid spread of the novel coronavirus in the country. Just grocery stores and pharmacies are allowed to stay open, and only absolutely necessary travel is permitted. One might think that fellow European Union countries would count their blessings and send their Italian friends a few vital supplies, especially since the Italians have asked for it. They have sent nothing.

    ...In the meantime, a partial and flawed savior has arrived. Close to midnight on March 12, a Chinese aircraft landed in Rome carrying nine medical experts and 31 tons of medical supplies including intensive care unit equipment, medical protective equipment, and antiviral drugs. Around the same time, a Chinese truck arrived in Italy bringing more than 230 boxes of medical equipment. It was less than Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi had promised Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio of Italy in a phone call on Tuesday, but two days after the phone call the supplies were on their way."

    Migrants on Greek islands to be offered €2,000 to go home (The Guardian, link):

    "Migrants on the Greek islands are to be offered €2,000 (£1,764) per person to go home under a voluntary scheme launched by the European Union in an attempt to ease desperate conditions in camps.

    The amount is more than five times the usual sum offered to migrants to help them rebuild their lives in their country of origin, under voluntary returns programmes run by the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM).

    The offer will last one month, as the commission fears an open-ended scheme would attract more migrants to Europe. It will not apply to refugees who have no homes to return to, but is intended to incentivise migrants seeking better living standards to leave the islands."

    Returned to War and Torture: Malta and Frontex coordinate push-back to Libya (Alarm Phone, link):

    "On Saturday, 14 March 2020, RCC Malta coordinated a push-back operation from the Maltese Search and Rescue (SAR) zone to Libya in cooperation with the EU border agency Frontex and the so-called Libyan coastguards. Similar to the events we documented on 18 October 2019, the Maltese authorities instructed the so-called Libyan coastguards to enter a European SAR zone in order to abduct about 49 people and force them back to Libya. Instead of complying with refugee and human rights conventions, the Maltese authorities coordinated a grave violation of international law and of the principle of non-refoulment, as the rescued must be disembarked in a safe harbour. Clearly, Libya is not a safe harbour but a place of war and systemic human rights abuses. Every week, the Alarm Phone receives testimonies of torture, rape and other forms of violence against migrants detained in Libyan camps and prisons."

    New EU migration pact must dust off fundamental rights (EUobserver, link):

    "The EU's new Pact on Migration and Asylum is an opportunity to take a different approach. To take a breath, to remember the values that the European project was founded upon, and to dust off the good old fundamental rights and put them to use.

    Not merely for the benefit of the European citizens, but also for those fleeing conflict and violence and seeking protection in Europe.

    While the scale of global displacement is high and the challenges related to irregular migration are real in Europe and beyond, the situation remains manageable.

    It requires the political leadership to insist on facts, instead of contributing to instilling unnecessary fear and insecurity in the European public by supporting unhelpful narratives of unmanageable movements and unprecedented crisis."

    Frontex launches new operations in Greece (link): by Matthias Monroy:

    "In two RABIT missions, the EU Border Agency is sending 100 additional officials to the Greek-Turkish land and sea border. Frontex currently have around 600 operational forces stationed in Greece.

    Fontex has started two new missions in Greece. Following a decision by Director Fabrice Leggeri, the EU Border Agency is sending border guards with technical assets to the Aegean Sea. A further mission has been launched today to reinforce police and military units for border surveillance on the land border with Turkey. This follows a request by the government in Athens."

    Revealed: the great European refugee scandal (Guardian, link):

    "Evidence obtained by the Guardian exposes a coordinated and unlawful EU assault on the rights of desperate people trying to cross the Mediterranean by Daniel Howden, Apostolis Fotiadis and Zach Campbell. (...)

    As night fell on 26 March 2019, two small boats made their way north across the Mediterranean. The rubber crafts were flimsy; it would be nearly impossible for those onboard to make it to Europe without help. From the north, a twin-propeller aeroplane from the European Union naval force approached. From the south, the coastguard from the country they had just fled, Libya, was coming. (...)

    Seagull 75 circled overhead. The flight crew was part of Operation Sophia, an EU naval mission that has patrolled the south-central Mediterranean since 2015. After participating in thousands of rescues in its first four years, Sophia withdrew its sea vessels from March 2019, leaving only aircraft in the rescue zone. It came to be known as the naval mission without any ships.(...)"

    Greece denies report of secret ‘black site’ for migrants near Turkish border (Euractiv, link):

    "The Greek government dismissed on Wednesday (11 March) a report in The New York Times that it was holding illegal migrants who cross the border from Turkey at a secret “black site” where they are denied access to lawyers and cannot file asylum claims".

    Erdogan says border will stay open until EU meets his demands (New Europe, link):

    "Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Wednesday he would keep the border open for migrants until the European Union had met all his demands.

    “Until all Turkey’s expectations, including free movement, updating of the customs union and financial assistance, are tangibly met, we will continue the practice on our borders”, he said."

    Coronavirus: How are Middle East refugee camps prepared? (DW, link):

    "With the Syrian health care system "on its knees," according to the World Health Organization, refugee camps across the region are also facing the potential threat of COVID-19. So far, no cases have been found."

    Artificial intelligence isn’t as smart as it thinks - The technology is decades away from being able to mimic human decision-making (Politico, link):

    "Digital personal assistants, software that can trounce board game champions, algorithms serving up customized online advertising — wherever you turn, artificial intelligence appears to be taking over the world.

    But look past the self-driving cars and facial-recognition cameras, and you'll see that the technology is a lot less intelligent than it may at first appear. It's likely to be decades, at best, before even the smartest forms of AI can outdo humans in the complex tasks that make up daily life."

    European Parliament Study: The ethics of artificial intelligence: Issues and initiatives (pdf):

    "STOA | Panel for the Future of Science and Technology II Chapter 2 moves on to consider the impact of AI on human psychology, raising questions about the impact of AI on relationships, as in the case of intelligent robots taking on human social roles, such as nursing. Human-robot relationships may also affect human-human relationships in as yet unanticipated ways. This section also considers the question of personhood, and whether AI systems should have moral agency. Impacts on the financial system are already being felt, with AI responsible for high trading volumes of equities.

    The report argues that, although markets are suited to automation, there are risks including the use of AI for intentional market manipulation and collusion. AI technology also poses questions for both civil and criminal law, particularly whether existing legal frameworks apply to decisions taken by AIs. Pressing legal issues include liability for tortious, criminal and contractual misconduct involving AI. While it may seem unlikely that AIs will be deemed to have sufficient autonomy and moral sense to be held liable themselves, they do raise questions about who is liable for which crime (or indeed if human agents can avoid liability by claiming they did not know the AI could or would do such a thing)."

    See also: Overview (pdf)

    EU: Justice & Home Affairs Council 14 March 2020 : Background Note (pdf)

    "In the morning, home affairs ministers will exchange views on the strategic guidelines for justice and home affairs, with a view to their endorsement ahead of the March European Council meeting.Theywill then come back to the situation at the EU's external borderswith Turkey. The Council will further develop the EU's response to needs expressed by Greece.

    Over lunch, ministers responsible for civil protection issues will discuss the coronavirus outbreak.

    Representatives of the Schengen associated countriesIceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland will also be present for the point on the situation at the EU's external borders"

    See: Greece warned by EU it must uphold the right to asylum (Guardian, link)

    EU: Border externalisation: Agreements on Frontex operations in Serbia and Montenegro heading for parliamentary approval

    On 29 January the civil liberties committee of the European Parliament (LIBE) approved the conclusion of status agreements on the actions on the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) on the territory of two neighbouring non-EU states - Serbia and Montenegro.

    Frontex border operation in Greece 'lacks legal basis' after Greece suspends asylum law (euronews, link):

    "Experts have questioned the legality of EU border agency Frontex sending officers to the Greek-Turkish border.

    Thousands have massed on the frontier after Ankara said it could no longer stop refugees in Turkey from heading to Europe.

    Frontex, which manages the European Union's external borders, is deploying reinforcements to Evros from 11 March.

    But experts have told Euronews this move "lacks proper legal basis".

    This is because Greece - already with a huge backlog - suspended the reception of asylum applications for a month on 1 March."

    Are You Syrious? Daily Digest 06/03/20 — MEP Joins Far-Right Vigilantes in Greece (Medium, link):

    "Feature: Golden Dawn MEP Among Fascist Vigilantes Attacking People in Greece

    Ioannis Lagos, a longtime member of the far-right Golden Dawn party, was spotted at the Greek-Turkish border in Evros. He was photographed with members of local so-called “protection” groups and at least two police officers.

    A far-right website published his activities, saying he was “actively participating in patrols organized by locals, to locate & turn over to the authorities the illegal immigrants-jihadists, that are crossing the borders by the thousands.” Clearly, he is an active participant in the violence being perpetrated against vulnerable people at the border and is making no effort to hide his presence.

    This is not the first violent action that Lagos has participated in."

    Greek-Turkish border: MEPs reject Turkey’s pressure, demand common asylum rules (EP, link):

    "The EU must help Greece manage its border with Turkey, while ensuring the right to asylum for those who need it, several MEPs said on Tuesday.

    In a debate with Commissioner Johansson and the Croatian Presidency of the Council, a majority of speakers criticised Turkish President Erdogan for using people’s suffering for political purposes. Many also underlined that the 2015 refugee crisis should not be repeated and insisted that the EU needs to update its common rules on asylum.

    Some political group leaders called for a revision of the deal with Turkey, which was hammered out in 2016 to stem the flow of migrants and asylum-seekers in exchange for EU financial aid. Others showed deep concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation both at the border with Turkey and on the Greek islands, where thousands of asylum-seekers, many of them unaccompanied minors, are stranded."

    See also: Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson: European Parliament Plenary - Opening statement to debate on situation at Greek-Turkish border (pdf)

    Bulgaria is not changing its push-back policy at its border to Turkey (Bordermonitoring Bulgaria, link):

    "Media reported that FRONTEX installed 60 additional staff members to the already existing 50 ones at the Bulgarian-Turkish border. This raises the question of whether FRONTEX will only watch the Bulgarian authorities while they go on with their push-back practice in the upcoming days. Until now, the number of crossing incidents around the Turkish-Bulgarian border near Kapikule/Kapitan Andreevo seem much lower in comparison to the Greek-Turkish border around Pazarkule/Kastanies – both border crossings are only about 10 km away from each other."

    HRW denounces Greece over migrants held on warship (Yahoo! News, link):

    "Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday called on Greece to reverse its "draconian policy" towards over 450 migrants detained on a navy ship docked in Mytilene port in Lesbos.

    The men, women and children were among those picked up by the Greek Coast Guard since March 1, when Turkey decided to open its borders and let make the crossing.

    Since Turkey's February 28 decision, more than 1,700 people have arrived on the Greek islands in the Aegean off the Turkish coast."

    UK: Police warned about ‘insider threat’ from extremists inside their own forces (The Independent, link):

    "Police have been warned about the threat from extremists inside their own forces.

    HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found that while officers’ work through the government’s Prevent counter-extremism programme was broadly good, few considered the possibility that their own colleagues could be radicalised.

    “The vulnerability of staff generally wasn’t referred to in forces’ Prevent training, but it is a real threat,” said a report released on Monday.

    ...The findings were revealed days after a serving Metropolitan Police officer was arrested on suspicion of being a member of a neo-Nazi terrorist group."

    See the report: HMICFRS: Counter-terrorism policing – An inspection of the police’s contribution of the government’s Prevent Programme (pdf): "This report sets out the high level findings from this inspection and is redacted, in the interest of national security."

    Secret documents: European domestic intelligence services networking worldwide (Matthias Monroy, link):

    "The „Club de Berne“, in which directors of domestic secret services of the EU member states as well as Norway and Switzerland are organized, has grown into a worldwide network. Jan Jirát and Lorenz Naegeli report this in the online edition of the Swiss „Wochenzeitung“, citing a secret document dated 2011. The „Club de Berne“ is thus involved in an international exchange of information with authorities in several continents.

    The informal „Club de Berne“ was founded in 1969 by initially nine heads of secret services. Even then, following research by Aviva Guttmann, the European services cooperated with Israeli partners Shin Bet and Mossad as well as the US FBI. The networking was done via a cable system called „Kilowatt“."

    GREECE: Yaros, the forgotten prison island (DW, link):

    "The barren and seemingly godforsaken island of Yaros in the southern Aegean is also known as the "Island of the Devil." Its history as a place of exile goes back to the ancient Romans who sent undesirable people to the island. After the Greek Civil War (1946-1949), Greek rulers kept the old tradition and sent 20,000 communists and other enemies of the government into exile on Yaros. The prisoners were treated to a gruesome educational holiday. Anyone who had dared to defy the government was mistreated until their will was broken and was then reeducated in the ways of "true Greeks."

    ...But now, it looks like the ball is rolling again. There are plans to turn the island into a nature conservation area and a diver's paradise. The project is being backed by WWF, the world's leading nature conservation organization, and the Cyclades Life program... It will be no easy task due to the complex legal situation."

    Fire breaks out at refugee centre on Greek island of Lesbos (The Guardian, link):

    "A fire at a refugee centre on the Greek island of Lesbos has caused considerable damage to a warehouse but no injuries, Greece’s fire service said.

    It was the second fire at an installation built for migrants, after unknown perpetrators burned down a reception centre last Monday. The warehouse, which contained furniture and electrical appliances, was completely destroyed, a fire service spokesman said."

    Coronavirus tests Europe’s resolve on privacy (Politico, link):

    "As governments around the world turn to tech to track the spread of coronavirus, some people are finding out the hard way that tracking tools can expose their private lives.

    In South Korea — where the state pings people's phones about the location of infected patients — one man was publicly pinpointed at a class about sexual harassment. In another case, an infected man was located in an area renowned for prostitution, according to the Guardian — leading to a hail of online jeers about his behavior.

    Think this could never happen in privacy-conscious Europe?

    Think again."

    Bulgaria Floods Evros River to Prevent Migrants Storming Greek Borders (Greek Reporter, link):

    "At the request of Greece, Bulgaria opened an Evros River dam located on its territory on Monday in order to cause intentional flooding and make it more difficult for migrants amassed at the Greek-Turkish border to cross the river.

    The opening of the Ivaylovgrad Dam accordingly resulted in rising levels of the Evros River, Star TV reported.

    As the standoff between thousands of migrants and refugees on the Turkish side of the Evros and Greek security forces continues, PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis met his German counterpart Angela Merkel in Berlin and stressed that Greece and Europe cannot be blackmailed."

    Statewatch Analysis: Frontex launches "game-changing" recruitment drive for standing corps of border guards (pdf) by Jane Kilpatrick:

    On 4 January 2020 the Management Board of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) adopted a decision on the profiles of the staff required for the new “standing corps”, which is ultimately supposed to be staffed by 10,000 officials. The decision ushers in a new wave of recruitment for the agency. Applicants will be put through six months of training before deployment, after rigorous medical testing.

    Aegean Boat Report

    "Arrival number from 01.03.2020, 902 people and all arrivals in week 10, 816 People has not been added to the population number by greek government, reason unknown but can be related to lates Development on the greek islands where new arrivals are denied to seek asylum."

    Von der Leyen: 'Right to seek asylum' at Greek border (Euobserver, link):

    "European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said part of the solution on the Greek-Turkish border tension must include a right to seek asylum. "There is the obligation to protect the border, there is EU law, but there is the obligation to guarantee fundamental rights, including the rights to ask for asylum, so this is in the charter and this is what we need as a solution," she said."

    Amid migrant crisis, Greece-Turkey conflict plays out on social media (euractiv, link):

    "Greeks and Turks are waging a proxy war on social media with photos, video and commentary purporting to show the other side behaving badly in a migrant crisis that has seriously strained already tense relations between Athens and Ankara."

    Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (25.2-2.3.20) including:

    CYPRUS: KISA calls on the Minister to retract his defamatory statements and to proceed to a dialogue with the stakeholders and NGOs concerned (press release, pdf):

    "The government has reacted to the increased refugee and migrant flows of the last 2-3 years with an ever more extreme right narrative, which comprises, among others, interconnecting migrants and refugees to matters of security, terrorism, unemployment and social cohesion. According to this narrative, refugees are channelled by Turkey following a plan that aims at changing the demographic nature and the full control of Cyprus.

    It seems that KISA with its critical positions and views against this narrative annoys the establishment as well as other extreme right and nationalistic circles. That is why, there is lately a systematic attempt targeting, smearing and mudslinging of the work and action of KISA and its leadership by a section of the printed and electronic media that agrees and supports the extreme right policies of the executive branch."

    See also: Letter from the European Network Against Racism to the Cyprus interior minister: Your statements on ENAR on Radio Proto 1, 24 February 2020 (pdf)

    Joint letter to Frontex regarding attempts to claim legal costs from transparency activists (6 March 2020, pdf):

    "On 31 January 2020, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) sent Luisa Izuzquiza and Arne Semsrott an invoice claiming € 23,700.81 in legal costs, establishing a deadline for compliance of 28 days. The recipients are two freedom of information activists and the applicants in the first access to EU documents case against Frontex before the General Court of the European Union.

    In light of Frontex’s claim, we are writing to demand Frontex refrains from pursuing any financial compensation for a legal challenge aimed at defending and protecting a fundamental EU right. We are also writing to express our concerns regarding the implications of Frontex’s action when it comes to civil society’s ability to protect and defend fundamental rights in the EU."

    ICC authorises Afghanistan war crimes investigation (Reprieve, link):

    "The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague has upheld an appeal against the Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision not to authorise an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the context of the conflict in Afghanistan. This paves the way for an independent investigation of abuses committed by US, Taliban and Afghan forces during the conflict."

    UK: Landmark Immigration Bill to end free movement introduced to Parliament (gov.uk, link):

    "The Immigration Bill will be introduced to the House of Commons today (Thursday 5 March) ending the European Union’s rules on free movement.

    It represents an important milestone in paving the way for the new UK points-based immigration system. It will be introduced by the Minister for Future Borders and Immigration, Kevin Foster, and marks an historic moment in the country’s history, following the UK’s departure from the EU on 31 January 2020."

    See: Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (pdf)


    "The Aegean Islands have descended into crisis. 5 years of neglectful EU policy has finally culminated in days of protest ( 1 , 2 ), NGOs threatened with violence, and mass strikes across the islands. Whilst over 42,000 asylum seekers reside on these islands, there is capacity for just 6,178 ( 1 ). Now, communities are braced for a surge in arrivals as Turkey has opened its borders, reneging on the EU-Turkey agreement.

    This ongoing political stalemate between the EU, Greece and Turkey must be resolved. This game, played by the powerful, is putting innocent human lives at risk. It must stop now. Added to this already volatile mix is rising panic over the coronavirus. With healthcare severely lacking in the hotspot camps, NGOs fear that an outbreak would have disastrous consequences."

    Common statement: Transnational solidarity against racism and war! (link):

    "Hundreds of groups and organizations worldwide sign multilingual statement demanding peace, fundamental rights and freedoms of every person on the move.

    Five years after the so-called “refugee crisis” and almost four years after the EU-Turkey deal, we are once again witnessing the violence caused by security-centred migration policies. Since last Thursday (27.02.2020), thousands of people have been moving towards the Turkey-Greece border following the announcement that migrants wanting to reach Europe will no longer be stopped on the Turkish side. The announcement from Turkish government officials came after the death of 33 Turkish soldiers in the Idlib area, where conflict escalation has seen the civilian death toll rapidly increase by the day, with basic infrastructure and health facilities being blatantly fired at. Turkish government keeps its borders with Syria closed while seeing no harm in pushing thousands of migrants towards the doors of Europe, into a limbo."

    "Protect our laws and humanity!" - Open Letter by 120 Organizations

    The undersigned organisations are deeply concerned about recent developments at the Evros border and the Aegean islands where people are stranded at the borders of Europe, instrumentalized for political purposes, and subject to violations of their rights. We are also deeply concerned about the way the authorities of Greece and the European Union are handling new arrivals. Equally alarming are the extreme actions by security forces against refugees and by civilians against staff of human rights and humanitarian organizations. We would also like to point out that the climate of panic and rhetoric of 'asymmetric threat' -also promoted by the authorities- does not reflect reality and seriously affects not only vulnerable refugees- but also our society and the rule of law as a whole.

    GUE/NGL MEPs' letter to the Commission and Council on the situation at the Greek-Turkish border (3 March 2020, pdf):

    "We, as Members of the European Parliament call upon you to ensure immediate action in such a way that it will ensure that Turkey immediately stops end the use of people fleeing war as political bargaining chip and as a tool for geo-political pressure to Greece and Europe as a whole. We call upon you to ensure effective access to protection in full respect of the Geneva Convention and EU law and to do so based on equal sharing of all challenges and responsibilities among all the EU Member States.

    We call upon you to take all necessary and immediate actions, including via an extraordinary EU Summit, in order to ensure the evacuation of seekers of international protection from the Greek islands and the land borders with Turkey, their immediate transfer to all the EU Member States and, in parallel, to enable the functioning of a fair and effective common asylum system and the creation of safe and legal pathways to the EU."

    Council of the EU: Statement on the situation at the EU's external borders (Consilium, link):

    "The EU and its Member States remain determined to effectively protect EU’s external borders. Illegal crossings will not be tolerated. In this regard, the EU and its Member States will take all necessary measures, in accordance with EU and international law. Migrants should not be encouraged to endanger their lives by attempting illegal crossings by land or sea. The Council calls upon the Turkish government and all actors and organisations on the ground to relay this message and counter the dissemination of false information. The EU will continue to actively fight human smuggling.

    All Member States, the European Commission and EU Agencies stand ready to strengthen their support to areas under pressure, including through the deployment of FRONTEX’s rapid border intervention and additional technical assistance. Member States will swiftly provide the support necessary to ensure the immediate deployment of the relevant teams and assets. The Commission will play an active role in coordinating Member States' support."

    EU: A coalition to “shield” migrants and refugees against violence at the borders - We will hold Greece and the EU accountable for the violations of the rights of migrants and refugees fleeing Turkey (Migreurop, link):

    "We firmly condemn the instrumental use of migrants and refugees by the EU and Turkey, and the Greek and EU operations deployed to prevent them from reaching European soil. No policy aim can justify such gross violations. Exiles fleeing violence must not face the violence of borders while they seek protection. Our organisations are joining their efforts to hold states accountable for their crimes. We plan to document and take legal action against those responsible for the violations of migrants and refugees’ rights, as well as those of activists acting in solidarity with them. We will employ our investigative and legal instruments to block state violence and reverse the deeply worrying trend towards the multiplication of push-backs in Greece, – a trend observable to different degrees across the EU’s shifting borders. Migrants and refugees are not a threat the EU should shield itself against, but are themselves threatened by state violence all along their precarious trajectories. We aim to use the tools of human rights to shield migrants and refugees from the brutality targeting them."

    Europe’s Morality Is Dying at the Greek Border (Foreign Policy, link):

    "This week, Greece’s northern border with Turkey and the Bulgarian-Turkish borderlands, too, have witnessed brutal, violent scenes reminiscent of war zones. Thousands of desperate migrants fleeing war zones—including mothers with babies in their arms—are storming barbed-wire fences to get into European Union territory to apply for political asylum, while Greek security forces in anti-riot gear beat them back and shoot rubber bullets and billowing clouds of tear gas at them. On the easternmost Greek islands, such as Lesbos, the Greek coast guard and navy have been turning away dinghies of half-frozen, frightened refugees. More than 32,000 migrants have been arrested at the Greek land border."

    Joint statement on the ongoing violence at the Greece-Turkey border (Forensic Architecture, link):

    "Today, together with more than a dozen NGOs, legal agencies, and activist groups, we published a statement (below) on the ongoing violence against refugees and migrants at the Greece-Turkey border, which has already resulted in multiple reports of serious injuries, as well as the death of 22-year-old Muhammad al-Arab. Watch our preliminary investigation into his death here"

    Danish boat in Aegean refused order to push back rescued migrants (Politico, link):

    "A Danish patrol boat monitoring the Aegean sea refused an order to push back migrants they rescued, Danish officials told public broadcaster DR.

    The Danish boat was patrolling the sea between Turkey and Greece's easternmost islands as part of Operation Poseidon, a border surveillance mission in support of Greece, coordinated by EU border protection agency Frontex.

    Jens Møller, the police chief in charge of the Danish unit participating in the operation, told DR that the crew had rescued 33 migrants headed for Greece in a rubber dinghy when they received a radio order from Operation Poseidon's headquarters to put the migrants back into to their dinghy and tow it out of Greek waters.

    The crew refused the order, believing it would endanger the lives of the migrants."

    Migrants: EU commission not fit to guard treaties (EUobserver, link):

    "Asked if it was legal for Greece to suspend asylum claims for a month as Greece has done, the commission announced it had no "authority to have a definitive legal opinion or legal doctrine."

    Asked if it was legal to fire rubber bullets at asylum seekers, the commission also refused to comment.

    "It is not up to the commission to offer any opinion or judgement on a situation which is exceptional, that is under certain constraints," said Margaritis Schinas, the vice-president in charge of "promoting our European way of life".

    Eric Mamer, the commission's chief spokesperson, was even more blunt. "You won't get a straight yes or no answer from me," he said.

    Instead, what you will get is a commission that has cowed to the far-right and one that is no longer fit to be the guardian of the EU treaties. That honour now belongs to EU citizens alone, it seems."

    Briefing: A manufactured refugee crisis at the Greek-Turkish border (The New Humanitarian, link):

    "Dramatic scenes have been playing out in recent days at the land and sea borders between Greece and Turkey: Greek police tear-gassing and pushing back crowds of asylum seekers at a northern border crossing; the Hellenic Coast Guard firing warning shots at a dinghy full of asylum seekers in the Aegean Sea; angry protesters preventing another group in a dinghy from disembarking in the port on the island of Lesvos.

    The images have been exploited by a savvy Turkish media campaign aimed at maximising pressure on the EU to support Turkish action in northwest Syria and to share more of the burden for hosting refugees. According to refugee advocates and human rights groups, Turkey’s politicisation of the refugee issue and the suffering at the EU’s borders are a predictable outcome of the EU-Turkey deal – a cornerstone of EU efforts to curb irregular migration across its borders."

    UNHCR statement on the situation at the Turkey-EU border (UNHCR, link):

    "UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is appealing for calm and an easing of tensions on Turkey’s borders with the European Union in light of the present increased movements of people there – including refugees and asylum-seekers.

    UNHCR is monitoring developments in Turkey and in Greece and is offering its support. As in all such situations it is important that the authorities refrain from any measures that might increase the suffering of vulnerable people.

    All States have a right to control their borders and manage irregular movements, but at the same time should refrain from the use of excessive or disproportionate force and maintain systems for handling asylum requests in an orderly manner.

    Neither the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees nor EU refugee law provides any legal basis for the suspension of the reception of asylum applications."

    Greece/EU: Urgently Relocate Lone Children (Human Rights Watch, link):

    "(Athens) – European Union (EU) Member States should urgently relocate unaccompanied children from the Greek islands to safety in their territory, while ensuring that the children’s best interests are taken into account, 64 human rights and humanitarian organizations said in a statement today. The groups warned of widespread violations of children’s rights and threats to their health and safety across the Aegean islands’ refugee hotspots. Action is all the more urgent in light of the escalating violence on Lesbos and as increased arrivals to the islands could lead to further deterioration of the dangerous conditions in the camps."

    Greece: Inhumane asylum measures will put lives at risk (Amnesty International, link):

    "The inhumane measures which the Greek authorities are taking to prevent people from entering the country are an appalling betrayal of Greece’s human rights responsibilities and will put the lives of people fleeing violence at risk, Amnesty International said today.

    Yesterday, following a meeting of Greece’s National Security Council, the authorities announced they would temporarily suspend the registration of asylum claims from people who enter the country irregularly. This measure will be coupled with the immediate return without registration of new arrivals if the return to their country of origin is “possible.” It’s not clear how the Greek authorities are interpreting “possible” in this context."

    At the Greek-Turkish border, politicians play with people’s lives (Alarm Phone, link):

    "People trying to enter Europe in search of protection face brutal repression in the Aegean region. Although this is not new, we currently see an escalation of violence as Turkey and Greece play a dangerous game with people’s lives. The survival instinct and hope of many for a better future is exploited and manipulated for cynical political stunts. Greece has now declared a state of emergency and to remove people’s right to claim asylum."

    SPAIN-BELGIUM: European Arrest Warrant: EU Court of Justice passes the buck on Valtonyc (Majorca Daily Bulletin, link):

    "The EU Court of Justice has ruled that Spain cannot retroactively apply for the extradition of Majorcan rapper Josep Miquel Arenas, aka Valtonyc from Belgium.

    The Luxembourg-based Court said that its ruling does not mean that the execution of the European arrest warrant should be denied, but that it is up to the Belgian Justice Department, which has already refused to extradite the rapper.

    Valtonyc fled to Belgium in June 2018, after he was sentenced to nearly 3 years in jail for glorifying terrorism in his lyrics."

    CJEU press release: In order to ascertain whether the European arrest warrant against a person convicted in Spain for the offence of glorification of terrorism and humiliation of the victims of terrorism must be executed without examining whether that offence is punishable also in Belgium, the Belgian courts must take into account the length of the sentence imposed by the Spanish law applicable to the acts committed (pdf) and: Judgment (pdf)

    UK: Government hired undercover 'spies' at public meeting on road through Litherland (Liverpool Echo, link):

    "Highways England paid over £5,000 to a surveillance and security firm to monitor two public information events in Sefton.

    The public events related to HE's controversial plans to build a dual carriageway through Rimrose Valley country park, to cope with the increase in HGV traffic resulting from the Port of Liverpool’s expansion.

    Campaigners have argued that the new road will increase traffic related noise and pollution in Litherland, and ruin the park.

    But bosses at Highways England insist the staff were at the meeting for security reasons.

    The SRV (Save Rimrose Valley) campaign group has now revealed that total of £5,424 was paid by HE to a surveillance company to monitor two events which took place in October last year."

    EU: Europol: Novel Actionable information, Criminal intelligence analysis and data analytics portal (CONAN) (Council document 13731/19, LIMITE, 6 November 2019, pdf):

    "On 3 October 2019 Europol launched the new criminal analysis portal, named “CONAN” (CONecting ANalysts), at the European Police Chiefs Convention. CONAN currently connects 1200 criminal intelligence analysts, [emphasis in original] coming from the MS, EU agencies (Europol, EBCGA, Eurojust, EMCDDA, OLAF, ..) and Third partner countries. New analysts are joining up every day.

    ...The new portal has several functionalities to connect analysts and help them to align ways of performing criminal analysis between law enforcement organisations across the European Union"

    Background: "Policing in a Connected World": Council looks to help police deal with "Novel Actionable Information" (Statewatch News, 25 March 2019)

    Counter-terrorism programmes are violating human rights, UN expert says (Middle East Eye, link):

    "Counter-extremism programmes, including those employed in the United Kingdom and the United States, are contributing to human rights violations, according to a United Nations expert.

    A report submitted to the Human Rights Council on Wednesday said religious groups, minorities and civil society actors in particular have been victims of rights violations and are targeted under the guise of countering "extremism."

    Special rapporteur Fionnuala Ní Aolain said any programme that relies on teachers, social workers and health-care staff to report signs of radicalisation should be scrapped."

    See the report: Human rights impact of policies and practices aimed at preventing and countering violent extremism (pdf) and press release: Violent extremism: Prevention programmes should not violate human rights – UN expert (UN Human Rights, link)

    UK: Britain’s secret state and the need for whistle-blowing (Daily Maverick, link):

    "In November 2003, I was charged with a breach of the Official Secrets Act in the UK. My ‘crime’ had been to reveal an email from the US National Security Agency (NSA) to Britain's intelligence agency, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) where I was working at the time.

    The email, which arrived on 31 January 2003, specified a US operation to target the home and office communications of six foreign diplomats on the UN Security Council. The purpose was to use the information gathered to strong-arm those states into voting for a resolution supporting an invasion of Iraq. "

    GERMANY: OPINION: How far-right tensions are boiling over on Munich's mayoral elections campaign trail (The Local, link):

    "At first glance, it appeared comical. Behind a barrier festooned with fearsome placards and an expensive PA system, two gentlemen stood glumly, occasionally summoning and murmuring to an offsider.

    In front of them stood a crowd of about 15 to 20 counter-protesters – punks, hippies and anarchists clad in black clothing. Speakers blared angry rap exhorting youth to ‘fight for their people’, and were answered by phones and boomboxes blaring anti-fascist standards such as ‘Bella Ciao’ and ‘Die Internationale’.

    It’s a scene being played out over and over again in German cities, as parties such as Alternative for Germany (AfD), who many say hold extreme far-right views, increasingly make a play for voters disenchanted with the centrist Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) or centre-left Social Democrats (SPD).

    And with extremist attacks such as the shootings in Hanau, Halle and the murder of pro-refugee politician Walter Lübcke, the role of the far-right is also being scrutinised further."

    UK: 'Gross failures' contributed to man's death in immigration centre (The Guardian, link):

    "Neglect and a series of gross failures by the Home Office and other agencies contributed to the death of a vulnerable Ghanaian man from hypothermia, dehydration and malnutrition, an inquest jury has found.

    In a damning narrative conclusion, the jury found that Prince Fosu, a car parts dealer, had died suddenly after developing these conditions while he was suffering from psychotic illness.

    The jury criticised many aspects of the healthcare systems in Harmondsworth immigration removal centre (IRC) at the time of Fosu’s death and said there were “gross failures across all the agencies”.

    They found that Home Office staff failed to spot and respond to Fosu’s deteriorating condition and failed to monitor their contractors adequately."

    EU governments ‘harassing’ those who help migrants: report (Politico, link):

    "European countries are misusing immigration and counterterrorism laws to punish civil society organizations and private citizens who are trying to help asylum seekers, Amnesty International said in a report published Tuesday.

    Those who have helped migrants by handing out warm clothes, offering shelter and saving lives at sea have been subjected to "unfounded criminal proceedings, undue restrictions of their activities, intimidation, harassment and smear campaigns" in multiple EU countries, Amnesty said.

    ...Amnesty recorded cases of restriction and criminalization of assistance to migrants in Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain, Switzerland and the U.K. These included incidents in which governments seized boats used by NGOs to rescue migrants at sea, and brought spying and terrorism-related charges against people suspected of helping migrants, such as the case of a Frenchman who faced trial for “facilitating irregular entry” into France after giving asylum seekers tea and clothing."

    The report: Punishing compassion: Solidarity on trial in Fortress Europe (pdf)

    European Parliament study: European arrest warrant: Framework for analysis and preliminary findings on its implementation (pdf):

    "The European Arrest Warrant has led to simplified and faster surrender procedures for suspects and sentenced persons. However, trust in the system needs to be enhanced through proper implementation and further harmonisation of substantive and procedural criminal law."

    UK: At least 20,000 people denied information that could prove right to live in UK, in new ‘hostile environment’ clampdown (The Independent, link):

    "At least 20,000 people have been denied information that could prove their right to stay in the UK, in what campaigners are warning is a revival of the ‘hostile environment’.

    A controversial loophole – passed into law despite warnings it risked “the next Windrush” – has been used to block almost 43 per cent of requests for the government to release vital data, The Independent can reveal.

    The huge impact of the clause – allowing data to be kept secret if release would “undermine immigration control” – comes despite ministers promising it would be used only on a “case-by-case basis”."

    For Norway it’s Official: The Rule of Law is No More in Poland (Verfassungsblog, link):

    "The so-called “muzzle law”, adopted by the Polish parliament on January 23, was the last straw. On Thursday 27 February, the board of the Norwegian Court Administration (NCA) decided to withdraw from its planned cooperation with Poland under the justice programme of the EEA and Norway Grants, due to concerns over the Polish justice reforms.


    In a statement published on the NCA website, the director of the NCA stated that the bilateral cooperation could not continue since “basic European standards for legal security are no longer present” in Poland. The director referred to criticism of the Polish justice reforms by the Venice Commission, the OSCE and the EU Commission, and concluded that the political control of Polish courts is now so extensive that the NCA and the Norwegian courts could no longer continue their cooperation with Poland within the EEA and Norway Grants justice programme. Crucially, the director voiced concern that Norway’s cooperation with Poland in the justice field might be considered as an acceptance of the recent justice reforms in Poland."

    Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (25.2-2.3.20) including:

    GREECE: Situation for migrants and refugees goes from bad to worse

    The Greek government is in the midst of an unprecedented crackdown against migrants and refugees already on the Aegean islands, as well as against those who are attempting to reach Greece from Turkey. Deploying police and military forces to the land border with Turkey in an attempt to prevent crossings, Greece has also said it will suspend the possibility to request asylum, a clear breach of EU and international law.

    Frontex wants to disembark refugees in Senegal (Matthias Monroy, link):

    "The EU border agency Frontex wants to bring back refugees picked up in the Atlantic Ocean to Senegal. The EU Commission should therefore negotiate a so-called Status Agreement with the government in Dakar. The proposal can be found in the annual report on the implementation of the Regulation for the surveillance of external sea borders. It regulates the maritime „operational cooperation“ of Frontex with third countries.

    It would be the first agreement of this kind with an African government. So far, Frontex has only concluded Status Agreements with a number of Western Balkan countries for the joint surveillance of land borders. The only operation to date in a third country was launched by the Border Agency in Albania a year ago."

    See: Annual report on the practical application of Regulation (EU) No 656/2014 establishing rules for the surveillance of the external sea borders in the context of operational cooperation coordinated by Frontex (Council document 6294/20, pdf)

    Janez Jansa, admirer of Viktor Orban, to be nominated PM of Slovenia (EurActiv, link):

    "The centre-right Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), led by former prime minister Janez Janša, late on Tuesday (25 February) agreed on a future government coalition with three other parties, the four parties said.

    The anti-immigration SDS (EPP-affiliated) formed a majority coalition with the centre-left Party of Modern Centre (SMC), the conservative New Slovenia and the pensioners’ party Desus.

    President Borut Pahor is expected to nominate Janša on Wednesday for the post of prime minister, to replace outgoing centre-right Prime Minister Marjan Šarec who resigned last month. Janša is expected to be confirmed by parliament next week."

    Facial Recognition Technology Is the New Rogues’ Gallery (Slate, link):

    "The government has always sought a way to file away and compare the faces of the guilty, but until very recently the technology only allowed for it to occur in a much more rudimentary way. Before there was the fingerprint, or even the police file, there was the rogues’ gallery, which you could find in most U.S. police departments. The gallery was a large wall or cabinet filled with photographs of alleged criminals that could be used as a way of identifying repeat offenders and coordinating surveillance, and as an example for witnesses... As cumbersome as this technology was, its use in the early 20th century posed the same ethical questions about guilt, innocence, and the nature of governance that we continue to grapple with on an exponentially larger scale. "

    First Success Against Facial Recognition in France (La Quadrature du Net, link):

    "Earlier this month, the Administrative Court of Marseille heard our case against facial recognition systems controlling access to two high schools in Nice and Marseille. These systems were authorised in December by the PACA Region as “experimental”. Yesterday, the Court annulled this decision.

    The Court found that the Region had no power to take this decision – schools only have such powers. Furthermore, the Court found that it breached the GDPR: these systems were based on “consent”, but students’ consent cannot be “freely given” because of the authority relationship that binds them to the school’s administration."

    More detail: First Ever Decision of a French Court Applying GDPR to Facial Recognition (AI Regulation, link) and the judgment: No 1901249 Marseilles Administrative Court (pdf)

    February 2020

    Justice and Home Affairs in the future UK/EU relationship: analysis of the negotiation positions (EU Law Analysis) by Professor Steve Peers (link):

    "The EU has now adopted its negotiation mandate for future relationship talks with the UK (discussed here). The UK has now done the same. Lots of commentators have looked in detail at the two sides’ approach to the future relationship on economic issues: this blog post aims to do the same on justice and home affairs issues (immigration, asylum, civil cooperation, judicial and police cooperation)."

    Turkey says will not stop Syrian refugees reaching Europe after troops killed (Reuters, link):

    "ANKARA/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey will no longer stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe, a senior Turkish official said, as Ankara responded on Friday to the killing of 33 Turkish soldiers in an air strike by Syrian government forces in Syria’s northwestern Idlib region."

    Greece invokes coronavirus to halt migration (EUractiv. link):

    "In an unexpected move, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis decided on Thursday (27 February) to upgrade border controls to the “maximum deterrent” level to prevent migrants affected with coronavirus from entering EU territory.

    “Migration is now taking on a new dimension, as flows to Greece include people from Iran – where we have had many cases of Coronavirus – and many passing through Afghanistan. Our islands, therefore, already burdened with public health issues, need to be protected twice,” the conservative leader said at a ministerial meeting.

    The Greek premier added that everything should be done in order to avoid having the coronavirus on these islands. The maximum deterrent level is the last step before closing the borders entirely."

    EU experts: closing borders 'ineffective' for coronavirus (euobserver, link):

    "EU experts said on Thursday (27 February) that refusing entry to an EU country of people with coronavirus symptoms would be counter-productive and "ineffective" to prevent the spread of the virus.

    "Refusal of entry is not considered an appropriate preventive measure as the virus would spread further" since those potential patients would keep moving in the region without being treated, EU sources said."

    European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI): ECRI Chair to the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers: alarm bells are ringing over racism and intolerance (link):

    "In the context of the publication of the latest annual report drawn up by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), Ms Maria Daniella Marouda, Chair of ECRI, held an exchange of views with the Committee of Ministers, the Council of Europe’s decision-making organ.

    Shortly after her meeting with Ms Marija Pejcinovic Buric, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Ms Marouda shared ECRI’s views with the Committee of Ministers about the alarming situation in Europe. She underlined that ultra-nationalistic, antisemitic and anti-Muslim hate speech and violence were gaining ground in all too many countries. “The xenophobic mass shootings in Hanau in Germany last week demonstrate once again that we not only need to speak urgently about racism and intolerance, but that we also need to be proactive”, she said."

    Analysis: Drones for Frontex: unmanned migration control at Europe’s borders (pdf) by Matthias Monroy:

    Instead of providing sea rescue capabilities in the Mediterranean, the EU is expanding air surveillance. Refugees are observed with drones developed for the military. In addition to numerous EU states, countries such as Libya could also use the information obtained.

    UK: Failures in treatment and policing behind 'boom in illegal drugs' (The Guardian, link):

    "Disappearing and underfunded drug treatment services and fruitless attempts to restrict the flow of illegal substances into the country underpin a booming £9.4bn illicit drugs market in the UK, a landmark review has found.

    Prof Dame Carol Black was commissioned by the former home secretary Sajid Javid to lead a major review to look into the ways in which drugs are fuelling serious violence."

    See also: Review of Drugs: Executive Summary (pdf)

    Unprecedented human rights crackdown obligates EU to reevaluate relations with Egypt (CIHRS, link):

    "We are writing to urge you to lead a comprehensive review of the EU’s relations with Egypt in light of the sustained and unprecedented crackdown on human rights in the country. We call on you to devise and implement a holistic and result-oriented strategy, using all instruments at the EU’s disposal to urgently halt this abusive trend and better engage with Egypt on protecting human rights, promoting the rule of law and combatting impunity."

    UK to withdraw from European arrest warrant (The Guardian, link):

    "The UK is to abandon a crucial tool used to speed up the transfer of criminals across borders with other European countries.

    Acting against the warnings of senior law enforcement officials, the government said it would not be seeking to participate in the European arrest warrant (EAW) as part of the future relationship with the European Union.

    In a document setting out the UK’s approach to negotiations with the EU, the government said: “The agreement should instead provide for fast-track extradition arrangements, based on the EU’s surrender agreement with Norway and Iceland which came into force in 2019, but with appropriate further safeguards for individuals beyond those in the European arrest warrant.”"

    See: 'Agreement on Law Enforcement and Judicial Cooperation in Criminal Matters' in The Future Relationship with the EU: The UK's Approach to Negotiations (pdf)

    Council Presidency and EU agencies want biometric databases for migrants and refugees in the Western Balkans

    The EU should help introduce the biometric registration of migrants and refugees travelling on the 'Balkan Route', according to the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU, as part of a series of measures to tackle the "threats arising from an increase in migratory flows and smugglers' networks".

    Open Letter to the EU about Climate of Racism in Hungary (European Roma Rights Centre, link):

    "Brussels, 18 February 2020: We would like to express our deep concern at the recent statements made by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán concerning the school segregation case in Gyöngyöspata. We call on the European Parliament to resolutely condemn the rhetoric of the Hungarian government, which exacerbates inter-ethnic tension and anti-Roma racism; delegitimises the work of human rights organisations yet again; and further undermines the rule of law."

    Scottish Government to seek Westminster support in rendition investigation (Reprieve, link):

    "In a reversal of its previous position, the Scottish Government now says it will seek the UK government’s support in obtaining the full US Senate torture report, in order to establish what role Scottish airports played in CIA rendition flights. So far, only the redacted 525 page Executive Summary of the 6,700 page report has been released.

    A spokesperson for justice secretary Humza Yousaf confirmed the move following a letter from MSPs, published in the Scotsman. The cross party group wrote: “We are deeply concerned that without concerted action by the Scottish and Westminster governments, Police Scotland’s investigation will fail to get to the truth."

    See: MSPs warn Sturgeon of ‘deep concern’ over police rendition investigation (The Scotsman, link)

    'I want to restart the EU's migration debate from scratch': Commissioner Ylva Johansson on sea rescues, relocations and a secret Libyan deal (Times of Malta, link):

    "The European commissioner for home affairs is in Malta for discussions on Tuesday in the latest attempt to agree a deal on how to handle the migration crisis. Ahead of the mission, Ylva Johansson answered questions from Jacob Borg about sea rescues, relocations and a secret Libyan deal."

    Clashes on Greek islands over new migrant camps (InfoMigrants, link):

    "Riot police have clashed with residents on two Greek islands over the construction of new migrant detention centers. The government is insisting that the closed facilities must go ahead to relieve pressure on overcrowded island camps.

    On Lesbos, about 500 people reportedly tried to stop heavy machinery from being unloaded on Monday night to begin construction at the site of the new facility.

    Police used tear gas on protesters close to the area, some of whom wore surgical masks, news agency reports said. On the island of Chios, at least three people were treated in hospital for breathing difficulties caused by the extensive use of tear gas, according to local officials."

    ‘Partnerships’ to be at heart of EU-Africa strategy, leaked paper reveals (EurActiv, link):

    "The EU will seek to put a series of policy-themed ‘partnerships’ at the heart of its EU-Africa strategy which will be formally launched in early March, according to a leaked draft obtained by EURACTIV.

    A draft outline of the strategy states that the EU executive wants to “change the narrative: look at Africa for what it is becoming: home to the world’s youngest population; largest trade area since the creation of the WTO; appetite for regional integration; women’s empowerment; all creating huge economic opportunities.”

    It also spells out the areas the EU would cover: Partners for Sustainable Growth and Jobs; for a Green Transition; for a Digital and Data Transformation; Peace, Security, Governance and Resilience; Migration and Mobility; and Multilateralism."

    Dodik Stops Bosnia From Cooperating With Frontex (Balkan Insight, link):

    "Amid an ongoing dispute over a Constitutional Court ruling that has angered Bosnian Serb politicians, Milorad Dodik, the Serbian member of the state presidency, has stopped Bosnia from signing up to a status agreement with the European Union border agency, Frontex.

    At the last session of the three-member Bosnian presidency, Dodik voted against all decisions that were on the agenda. One was the proposal of the Minister of Security, Fahrudin Radoncic, to accept an “Agreement on Status between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Union on Actions Executed by the Agency for European Border and Coast Guard in Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

    Frontex had offered to deploy its forces along the Bosnian border to prevent illegal migration – but for that to happen, it needs a so-called Status Agreement."

    EU: "Data lakes", broken silos, changing the law: Counter-Terrorism Coordinator enthusiastic for Europol's new 'innovation hub'

    The EU is in the process of setting up an 'innovation hub' at Europol in order to look at the development and use of new technologies for internal security. The Counter-Terrorism Coordinator (CTC), who initially proposed the idea, has circulated an enthuastic note to national delegations in Brussels setting out his vision for the unit. Meanwhile, minutes of a meeting between EU and Interpol officials suggest that Frontex operations could provide a "test lab" for new technologies.

    Analysis: Fort Vert: Nature conservation as border regime in Calais (pdf) by Hanna Rullman:

    The construction of a nature reserve in Calais as a way to prevent the return of migrant encampments raises important questions over the political uses of the environment in Europe’s border regime.

    IRELAND: Appeal in Dwyer case referred to EU Court of Justice (RTÉ, link):

    "The Supreme Court has said it intends to refer Graham Dwyer's case over the retention and accessing of his mobile phone metadata to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

    The court made its decision by a majority of six to one.

    Chief Justice Frank Clarke said he had expressed a view on three key issues in the case, but because the answers involve matters of EU law and the answers to them are not clear, the court was obliged to refer the issues to the Court of Justice of the EU in Luxembourg."

    See: Judgment of Mr Justice Clarke, Chief Justice, delivered the 24th of February, 2020 (pdf)

    Don’t Underestimate Slovakia’s Neo-Nazi Threat (Balkan Insight, link):

    "Only a year ago, analysts spoke of endemic corruption and erosion of the rule of law as the main threats to Slovak society. But as a general election approaches at the end of this month, political scientist Aneta Vilagi says Slovak democracy itself is at stake.

    “Namely because of the situation we’ve seen since 2016, when a party supposedly built on a neo-Nazi ideology entered parliament,” said Vilagi from Comenius University in Bratislava.

    She was referring to the far-right Kotleba – People’s Party Our Slovakia (LSNS), which is polling in second or third place ahead of the country’s February 29 parliamentary election."

    Greece has to act regarding “unsustainable situation” for refugees on the islands (Brussels Times, link):

    "The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, called on Greece to act regarding “the unsustainable situation” for refugees on the Greek islands on Friday.

    These refugees are mainly living on the islands opposite Turkey. Grandi said Greece would have “support from Europe.”

    “The living conditions on the islands are shocking and shameful,” Grandi said, adding they had gotten worse since his last visit in November."

    Polish rule of law crisis at point of no return (EUobserver, link) by Elena Crespi and Joshua Ratliff:

    "Following four-plus years of assault by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, the embattled Polish judiciary may be on its last legs.

    On 4 February, amid mass domestic and international protest, Polish president Andrzej Duda signed into law a deeply-controversial set of new reforms openly defying the authority of the EU's top court and seeking to prevent Polish judges from applying EU law under penalty of suspension, fines, salary cuts and dismissal.

    The power consolidation strategy pursued by the Law and Justice government since it came to power in 2015 has taken repeated aim at judicial restraints on the government's ability to act, and represents at its core an effort to dismantle the very checks and balances that characterise democratic forms of government."

    Commissioner urges Italy to suspend co-operation activities with Libyan Coast Guard and introduce human rights safeguards in future migration co-operation (CoE, link):

    "In a letter addressed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy, Luigi Di Maio, published today, the Commissioner urges the Italian government to introduce human rights safeguards in the Memorandum of Understanding between Italy and Libya.

    While noting that discussions to improve human rights compliance in the future are ongoing, the Commissioner calls on Italy to acknowledge the realities currently prevailing on the ground in Libya and to suspend co-operation activities with the Libyan Coast Guard that result in the return of persons intercepted at sea to Libya."

    See: Letter (pdf) and: Italian government response (pdf)

    Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (4-24.2.20) including:

    Back to Mauritania: Frontex repatriates migrants arriving on Canary Islands (InfoMigrants, link):

    "On Monday, a Frontex operated repatriation flight took off from Spain’s Canary Islands for Mauritania. 51 African migrants were on board. This is the third such flight this year, says the Spanish Ombudsman. The repatriations are a result of a 2003 agreement signed between Spain and Mauritania.

    As the Spanish civil guard was still looking for three boats reported missing off the Canary Islands, other reports were coming through of a Frontex repatriation flight. The flight took off on Monday according to the news agency AFP and the Spanish Ombudsman. It was carrying 51 people aboard."

    EU summit collapses as leaders struggle to fill €75bn Brexit hole (The Guardian, link):

    "A summit of EU leaders seeking to fill a €75bn hole in the bloc’s budget left by Brexit dramatically collapsed after Angela Merkel led major contributors in rejecting a proposal that would have left them paying billions more.

    The meeting in Brussels was brought to an abrupt end on Friday evening with the leaders deeply divided, leaving the European council president, Charles Michel, to admit: “We need more time.”

    The UK’s departure has left EU states struggling to fund plans over the next seven years to tackle the climate emergency, aid poorer regions and continue to subsidise farmers through the common agricultural policy."

    Assange's fate hangs in balance as UK court considers U.S. extradition bid (Reuters, link):

    "Almost a decade after his WikiLeaks website enraged Washington by leaking secret U.S. documents, a London court will begin hearings on Monday to decide whether Julian Assange should be extradited to the United States.

    A hero to admirers who say he has exposed abuses of power, Assange is cast by critics as a dangerous enemy of the state who has undermined Western security. He says the extradition is politically motivated by those embarrassed by his revelations.

    The 48-year-old is wanted by the United States on 18 criminal counts of conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law and could spend decades in prison if convicted."

    See also: London protesters rally against Assange extradition (UPI, link) and: Julian Assange should not be extradited due to potential impact on press freedom and concerns about ill-treatment (Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, link)

    European Court of Human Rights : Spain and the European Union will prevail the protection of European borders over the right to asylum. (Migreurop, link)

    "The European Court of Human Right (ECHR) just took a decision in favour of the Spanish authorities, by endorsing the practice known as “hot push-back” of people trying to reach the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. Although another body of the Court had already condemned Spain in 2017 for this illegal practice [1], its Grand Chamber decided this time that Spain had not violated the rights of the exiles who had already crossed its border by sending them back to Morocco quickly and widely. With this highly serious decision, the ECHR legitimizes the generalization of the principle of non-refoulement. Furthermore, it endorses the impossibility of applying for asylum in case of illegal border crossing and welcomes the good collaboration with Morocco in the repression of exiles."

    Leaked Reports Show EU Police Are Planning a Pan-European Network of Facial Recognition Databases (The Intercept, link):

    "A police investigator in Spain is trying to solve a crime, but she only has an image of a suspect’s face, caught by a nearby security camera. European police have long had access to fingerprint and DNA databases throughout the 27 countries of the European Union and, in certain cases, the United States. But soon, that investigator may be able to also search a network of police face databases spanning the whole of Europe and the U.S."

    See: Council of the EU: Next Generation Prüm (Prüm.ng) - Reports from focus groups / Report on face recognition (13356/19, LIMITE, pdf)

    Balkan spies 'feed' EU's police database via Czechs (EUobserver, link):

    "Secret services in at least one non-EU Western Balkan state are indirectly feeding the EU's police database with alerts on suspected foreign terrorist fighters, according to a confidential document seen by this website.

    Drafted by the counter-terrorism section of the Czech Republic National Organised Crime Agency, the nine-page document says over 250 alerts have been flagged by the Western Balkans since last summer."

    See: Terrorism Working Party: Summary of discussions (30 January 2020, LIMITE, 5399/20, pdf):

    "Delegates took note of the presentation by Europol on the SIS II project. In line with the conclusion from the CTPB (counter terrorism programme board) concerning the insertion and sharing of SIS II hits from Third Parties, in particular Western Balkans. The Czech Republic volunteered to insert and create alerts according to the Article 36(3) of the SIS II based on the lists of FTFs. The test phase started in July 2019. The results are positive and will be presented at the next CTPB in April."

    UK: Dutch man wins deportation appeal after judge messes up legal test (Free Movement, link):

    "The Court of Appeal’s judgment in Hussein v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2020] EWCA Civ 156 is another reminder of the multiple layers of protection from deportation which EU citizens enjoy. In particular, it focuses on the importance of a properly reasoned decision by the First-tier Tribunal about when deportation meets the “serious grounds of public policy” test in the EEA Regulations.

    Mr Hussein is a Dutch citizen who arrived in the UK in 1998. Starting from when he was a teenager, Mr Hussein eventually amassed 24 convictions over a 15-year period. That included three stints in custody. In March 2016, the Home Office had had enough and made a deportation order."

    EU backtracks on plans to ban facial recognition (EUobserver, link)

    "The European Commission came under fire on Wednesday (19 February) for ruling out a moratorium on facial recognition, as the bloc's new strategy for data and artificial intelligence (AI) governance was unveiled.

    "It is of utmost importance and urgency that the EU prevents the deployment of mass surveillance and identification technologies without fully understanding their impacts on people and their rights," warned Diego Naranjo, head of policy at European Digital Rights.

    But the commission vice president Margarethe Vestager said only on Wednesday that the EU's executive body will launch "a broad European debate to determine the specific circumstances, if any, which might justify the use" of facial recognition."

    See: White Paper On Artificial Intelligence - A European approach to excellence and trust (pdf) and: A Europe Fit for the Digital Age: Empowering people with a new generation of technologies (EC, link)

    EU stops Operation Sophia and sends warships to stop Libya weapons trafficking (Malta Today, link)

    "The EU has agreed to deploy warships to stop the flow of weapons into Libya, and to wound down the military mission that rescues migrants and refugees from drowning in the Mediterranean.

    Josep Borrell, the EU’s chief diplomat, said the new operation with naval ships, planes and satellites will enforce the United Nations arms embargo on Libya.

    Countering critcis, especially Italy and Austria, that the operation could turn into a rescue mission, Borrell promised the ships would be withdrawn if they became “a pull factor” that encouraged people to attempt the risky crossing from Libya to Europe."

    Hungary turns its back on Europe (Oktatói Hálózat, link)

    "This report has been prepared by independent Hungarian intellectuals who wish to inform the Hungarian and international public as well as European institutions about the severe harm that the Orbán regime governing Hungary since 2010 has caused in the fields of education, science, culture, and the media.

    The reason for preparing the present report is that the acts of the successive Orbán governments consistently run counter to and consciously violate the fundamental principles, values, and norms of the European Union, not only as regards the rule of law and political and social rights, but also in the case of the cultural areas discussed here. In Hungary, important European values are being jeopardised, including cultural diversity, scientific and artistic autonomy, the respect for human dignity, access to education and culture, conditions for social mobility, the integration of disadvantaged social groups, the protection of cultural heritage, and the right to balanced information, as well as democratic norms like ensuring social dialogue, transparency and subsidiarity."

    Ocean Viking saves 182 people in distress on Mediterranean (DW, link):

    "At 5:30 a.m., the distress call goes out. A wooden boat overcrowded with displaced people is drifting 130 kilometers (80 miles) off the coast of Libya. When the Ocean Viking, a rescue ship operated by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), receives the call, it is 22 nautical miles (41 kilometers) from the boat. It will take an hour or two to reach it. Nicholas Romaniuk, the search and rescue coordinator aboard the Ocean Viking, changes the vessel's course to intercept the boat."

    Why is regulating artificial intelligence important in Europe? (European Parliament, link):

    "Three members from the legal affairs committee are currently working to ensure the EU is prepared for the legal and ethical aspects of developments in artificial intelligence (AI). Find out more in our interview. (...)

    Although Europe’s existing civil liability framework covers most upcoming scenarios, new technologies based on AI will nevertheless expose several unsolved issues.

    In the case of an AI malfunction, it will for instance become rather difficult to differentiate between negligent and non-negligent conduct. Who exactly is liable if an AI-driven robot hurts a pedestrian in a public space or makes a mistake during a surgery?

    The European Parliament wants to propose a working mechanism that covers the entire spectrum of risks as well as potential harm caused by the use of AI in its various applications."

    Eyes wide shut: collective punishment of Roma in 21st-century Europe (Open Democracy, link):

    "75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, despite the EU Framework for Roma Integration which closes this year, anti-Roma racism has spiked across the continent."

    Right-wing Serbian Party Launches Anti-Immigration Campaign (BalkanInsight, link):

    "Dveri, part of an opposition alliance boycotting April’s parliamentary election, has begun collecting signatures against the government’s policy on immigration."

    UN agency calls for new safe harbour rules for migrants from Libya (Euractiv, link):

    "The International Organization for Migration on Wednesday (19 February) called on the world community to devise a “safe disembarkation mechanism” for migrants fleeing Libya, the day after a port in the capital of the war-torn country was hit by a barrage of rocket fire.

    The IOM, a UN-related agency, called on nations and the European Union “to find an alternative safe disembarkation mechanism for migrants rescued fleeing Libya by boat”.

    The call came after “roughly 200 migrants” were returned to Tripoli, hours after the city’s main port was heavily shelled on Tuesday."

    EU: EEAS calls for changes to Operation Sophia so "chances to conduct rescue operations are lower"

    The European External Action Service (EEAS) has called on EU governments to limit the saving of lives at sea by Operation Sophia. A note sent to the member states' permanent representatives in Brussels says the mission should prioritise the enforcement of a UN arms embargo on Libya, rather than monitoring migrant smuggling activities, and suggests that ships could be placed "at least 100km off the Libyan coast, where chances to conduct rescue operations are lower."

    EU: Joint statement: The new Pact on Asylum and Migration: An Opportunity Seized or Squandered? (ECRE, link):

    "After years of treating asylum and migration in crisis mode, we believe the proposed Pact on Asylum and Migration is an opportunity for the EU and its Member States to change direction. It is an opportunity to develop a rational and rights-based asylum and migration policy. Recent cooperation among Member States signals the possibility of a fresh start, which should build on the lessons of the recently attempted and largely failed reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). However, there is a risk that the Pact may include or prepare the groundwork for damaging legislative proposals, in particular what has been termed the “border instrument”."

    NETHERLANDS: Half the children in final refugee amnesty review can stay (DutchNews.nl, link)

    "Just over half the refugee children hoping to be given residency rights in the Netherlands in a final review of the child refugee amnesty have won the right to stay.

    In total, 569 out of 1,100 children have been given residency permits, along with 502 adult family members, junior justice minister Ankie Broekers-Knol told MPs on Wednesday.

    The cases of 263 children were given an automatic review, after MPs agreed to soften the criteria in a final attempt to end the problems around the amnesty early last year.

    Of those 263 cases, 235 were granted residency. In addition, a further 837 children applied for the amnesty who were not part of the automatic review. Most of those cases were rejected, but 334 children were given a residency permit, Broekers-Knol said."

    Statewatch Analysis: Spain: Will the new 'progressive' government uphold freedom of expression? (pdf)

    Following the announcement of the coalition government in January, the Plataforma en Defensa de la Libertad de Información (Platform in Defence of Freedom of Information, PDLI) published the ten top priorities the new administration should deal with to ensure respect of the right to freedom of expression. The organisation has called on the government to align domestic law with its human rights obligations, including a revision of the Criminal Code, the Gag Law and the Royal Decree Law 14/2019, which allows internet shutdowns. Many of these concerns were recently echoed at the UN Human Rights Council, where Spain is currently undergoing its third universal periodic review.

    UK: British father pled “not guilty” to terrorism charges for supporting his son, an anti-Daesh YPG volunteer (The Interregnum, link):

    "The British state is now wielding terrorism charges against family members of YPG volunteers even though it is not a banned organisation. Activists say this reflects a wider policy of “use and abuse” of terrorism legislation designed to clamp down on social activism and solidarity work which would otherwise be perfectly legal.

    The father and brother of Daniel Newey, a volunteer with the Kurdish-led Peoples Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, face terrorism related offences in connection to their support for him.

    Paul Newey, 49, and Samuel Newey, 19, both appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court (WMC) on 15 February. Paul Newey confirmed his details and pled “not guilty” to charges under the Terrorism Act 2000 for supporting his son Daniel with £150. Samuel was not asked to enter a plea at the hearing."

    ECHR-SPAIN: European court under fire for backing Spain's express deportations

    "The European court of human rights has been accused of “completely ignoring the reality” along the continent’s borders after it ruled that Spain acted lawfully when it summarily deported two people who tried to scale the border fence separating Morocco from Spanish territory six years ago."

    UK: Revealed: Staffordshire Police in secret requests to NHS over mental health of complainants (Express & Star, link):

    "The force is being investigated for obtaining information on “persistent” complainants after it asked an NHS trust to provide medical details.

    The force was provided with personal data on 16 people, without their knowledge, after a request was made to the trust running St George’s mental health hospital in Stafford.

    Police asked for details on the complainants, asking if they were “known to mental health services and what for”.

    The request led to an investigation being launched by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) after one of those involved complained. "

    German police arrest 12 over far-right plot to spark 'civil-war-like situation' (The Guardian, link):

    "Police in Germany have arrested twelve men, including one of their own officers, in a nationwide investigation into an extreme-right group suspected of planning attacks on politicians, asylum-seekers and Muslims.

    The arrests followed raids, some by heavily armed special units, in 13 locations in six German states.

    The four prime suspects planned to spark “a civil-war-like situation ... via as yet undefined attacks on politicians, asylum seekers and people of Muslim faith,” federal prosecutors said in a statement.

    A further eight suspects were alleged to have agreed to “financially support the group, provide it with weapons or take part in future attacks”."

    Background and context: Germany: Shadow army or isolated cases? Right-wing structures in the security authorities (pdf)

    Germany is not implementing its promise to accept refugees - Deutschland setzt seine Versprechen zur Flüchtlingsaufnahme nicht um (Tagesspiel, link):

    Germany fails to keep its promise to relocate a quarter of migrants and refugees who arrived in Southern Europe since the Malta agreement in September, according to a list submitted to the Tagesspiegel by the Federal Minister of Interior of Germany. The only time Germany relocated people was one day after the Malta Agreement was signed; the country took in 47 shipwreck survivors. Germany indicated that 309 more persons were pending. Stephan Mayer, a German politician, declared in mid-January that 501 persons had been transferred to Germany so far and insinuated that the Malta agreement had been successful. However, the list now shows that this number is the sum of previous rescue operations since summer 2018, the year before the Malta Agreement.

    Via: Europe External Policy Advisers (link)

    GREECE: PRESS RELEASE: A criminal complaint was filed regarding the death of a 31-year-old Iranian national at the Pre-Removal Detention Centre of Moria (Lesvos Legal Centre, link):

    "February 6, 2020, Mytilene, Lesvos – on 29th January a criminal complaint was filed before the public prosecutor of the first instance court of Mytilene by five NGO attorneys, offering free legal aid to the asylum seekers in Lesvos, with the request to investigate the precise reasons and conditions of the death of the 31-year-old Iranian man, who, according to the report of the online journal “StoNisi”, dated 06/01/2020, was found hanged in the pre-removal detention center of Moria in the morning of that day."

    Un-Owned Personal Data – Interoperable EU Borders and Transitioning Rights (Migration Policy Centre, link):

    "The project investigates whether advanced technologies, inherent in interoperable information systems in the Area of Freedom Security and Justice (AFSJ), undermine the fundamental rights of third-country nationals, including asylum seekers. Given the nature of digital data, which are intangible and un-territorial, third-country nationals exist in a transitioning status beyond borders (e.g.asylum seeker to EU citizen) and across different legal procedures (e.g.migrant to suspect). Our aim is to understand the scope of interoperability in the AFSJ in relation to transitioning rights, in order to ultimately design an integrated model of interoperable justice encompassing different layers of accountability and liability."

    Classified documents: Great Britain has been massively violating Schengen rules for years (Matthias Monroy, link):

    "Because of serious breaches, British participation in Europe’s SIS II should have been terminated long ago. With two years delay, the Commission now made proposals to remedy the shortcomings. This fuels the suspicion that the country should continue to participate in the database despite having left the EU.

    The Schengen Information System (SIS II) is the largest European information system and currently contains around 90 million entries. In 2015, the EU Commission has granted access to Great Britain. However, the country is not a member of the Schengen Agreement, which regulates the abolition of border controls within the European Union, nor does it implement the free movement of persons. For this reason, British authorities are not allowed to enter or query data in the SIS II concerning irregular migration.

    But Great Britain is misusing the SIS II on a large scale."

    UK: Police keeping drink-driver's DNA breached his rights, judges rule (The Guardian, link):

    "UK police who indefinitely retained in their records the DNA profile of a man convicted of drink-driving breached his human rights, Strasbourg judges have ruled.

    The ruling by the European court of human rights (ECHR) over Fergus Gaughran’s claim presents a significant challenge for police data storage practices in the UK.

    Gaughran, 47, from Newry, had complained that the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s continued retention of his DNA profile (the digital record of his DNA sample), fingerprints and a photograph was a breach of his privacy."

    See the judgment: Case of Gaughran v the United Kingdom (application no. 45245/15, pdf) and: Information note (pdf)

    IRELAND: Facial recognition used in public services card programme, department says (Irish Times, link):

    "The Department of Social Protection has confirmed that it carries out biometric processing and uses facial recognition technologies as part of its controversial public services card (PSC) programme.

    The confirmation prompted concerns among data-protection experts, who said there are questions over the proportionality of creating a database of facial recognition images due to the risks attached."

    EU: Internal Council report on the implementation of the EU Internal Security Strategy

    "Delegations will find attached the joint paper of the outgoing Finnish Presidency and the Croatian Presidency on the implementation of the renewed EU Internal Security Strategy."

    Refugee Camps at EU External Borders, the Question of the Union’s Responsibility, and the Potential of EU Public Liability Law (Verfassungsblog, link):

    "‘The EU hotspot approach as implemented in Greece is the single most worrying fundamental rights issue that we are confronting anywhere in the European Union’. This quote by the head of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) might sound drastic. Yet, it is not far-fetched. EU bodies, national institutions, international organisations including the Council of Europe, and NGOs, have, during the past four years, continuously documented that the asylum processing centres at the EU external borders lead to fundamental rights violations on a daily basis. The EU hotspot administration indeed jeopardises the respect for fundamental rights and the rule of law as enshrined in Article 2 TEU.

    Usually, when something is going wrong, a first step towards improvement is to ask: who is responsible? And yet, with regard to EU hotspots, this question is still subject to debate. Responsibilities are effectively blurred by the sheer number of actors operating in those centres combined with a lack of legal clarity...

    It is argued here that EU public liability law—more specifically: an action for damages against the Union or its agencies Frontex and EASO—has a particular potential in this context. First, it would help secure the right to an effective remedy to concerned individuals. Second, it would thereby serve to address systemic deficiencies in the EU hotspot administration. Third, it could ultimately provide an answer to the crucial question of whether the Union is responsible for fundamental rights violations in EU hotspots."

    Violence in Northern Ireland Rising Amid Political Paralysis (New York Times, link):

    "Violence in Northern Ireland has fallen sharply since the 1998 Good Friday agreement formally ended a bloody 30-year guerrilla war between mostly Catholic republicans, seeking unification with the Republic of Ireland, and predominantly Protestant loyalists and unionists, who favor remaining in the United Kingdom.

    But now, paramilitary groups that have been lingering for decades are beginning to reorganize, driven by economic stagnation, political paralysis and the potential impact of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan, which was given a final stamp of approval in last week’s general election after the Conservative Party won a commanding majority in the British Parliament."

    HUNGARY: Siege of Budapest: neonazi historical agenda is furthered by state sponsored media group (Atlatszo, link):

    "Family, personal and business connections tie the organisers of the infamous Breakout Hike to the top echelons of the Hungarian state, most notably to state broadcaster MTVA and the governing party elite.

    The annual Breakout Hike, taking place on Saturday this year, has been being organised every year for the best part of the last two decades. It is traditionally the most popular event of all the memorial activities around the anniversary of the failed breakout attempt of the surrounded German and Hungarian soldiers at the end of the WWII siege of Budapest that ended with the deaths of some 20 thousand soldiers."

    UK: Psychological coercion in the hostile environment (IRR, link):

    "Join us for a crucial seminar that will explore both the coercive and the exploitative sides of the government’s hostile environment policies.

    Speakers will discuss a) the operations of a coercive psychological programme which stigmatises migrants and asylum seekers as ‘scroungers’ and ‘bogus’ and b) how hostile environment policies create profits for the state, through questionable charging regimes and the exploitation of the work of migrants in immigration removal centres."

    Frontex to provide border security expertise to European Commission’s research projects (Frontex, link):

    "Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, will provide its expertise in the area of border security research and innovation to assist the European Commission in supporting the development of state of the art technology for the border and coast guard community.

    The collaboration between Frontex and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs will be based on Terms of Reference (ToR) that were signed yesterday by Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri and the Director General of Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs Monique Pariat.

    EU-funded security research enables innovation in technologies and knowledge that is crucial for developing capabilities to address today’s security challenges and to anticipate tomorrow’s threats and opportunities. "

    UK to diverge from EU data protection rules, Johnson confirms (EurActiv, link):

    "The United Kingdom will seek to diverge from EU data protection rules and establish their own ‘sovereign’ controls in the field, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday (3 February). His comments came despite the EU affirming that the UK should “fully respect EU data protection rules.”

    In a written statement to the House of Commons published yesterday, the Prime Minister said that the United Kingdom will “develop separate and independent policies” in a range of fields, including data protection, adding that the government would seek to maintain high standards in so doing."

    And see: Brexit and GDPR (Law Gazette, link)

    Spain: Anti-torture Committee issues report on police detention and prisons in Catalonia (CoE, link):

    "Strasbourg, 04.02.2020 – In a report published today on a visit to the autonomous community of Catalonia in Spain in 2018, the Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee (CPT) expresses concern about some allegations of ill-treatment received from persons apprehended by Mossos d´Esquadra and from inmates held in special closed regime departments in prisons, notably in Brians 1. The CPT calls on the authorities to abolish the use of fixation of agitated prisoners to beds with straps. With regard to women prisoners, the report acknowledges the good health care services they are provided but underlines the need for improvements to address their specific needs.

    Although the vast majority of persons met by the CPT’s delegation stated that they had been treated correctly when detained by Mossos d’Esquadra officers, a number of allegations of physical ill-treatment were received. The alleged ill-treatment consisted mainly of kicks and punches to the head and body and blows with truncheons to the body of detained persons, usually at the moment of their apprehension."

    See: Report to the Spanish government on the visit to Spain carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) (pdf) and: Response of the Spanish government (pdf)

    French police clear last refugee camp in Paris (Al Jazeera, link):

    "French police have cleared the last refugee tent camp in northeastern Paris, moving 427 people to shelters as part of a plan to take migrants off the streets.

    The group, which included four women, were living in 266 tents and makeshift shelters in a canal-side camp "strewn with waste and refuse, overrun by rats and giving off a pestilent and foul-smelling odour of urine and excrement", according to the authorities."

    Frontex’s History of Handling Abuse Evidence Dogs Balkan Expansion (Balkan Insight, link):

    "Internal documents reviewed by BIRN show that the head of Frontex rejected a recommendation in 2016 from the agency’s own compliance watchdog to suspend operations on the Hungarian-Serbian border amid concerns of complicity in rights violations by Hungarian officers.

    Among the reported acts of brutality: the use of batons, teargas and pepper spray on asylum seekers — including children — and violent “pushbacks” of refugees and migrants into northern Serbia.

    Meanwhile, as Frontex expands its footprint into non-EU countries in Southeast Europe, critics say agreements between the agency and Western Balkan governments will allow Frontex staff to operate with a worrying level of impunity for any wrongdoing."

    Italy’s Failed Migration Fix Has Led to Chaos in Libya (Foreign Policy, link):

    "ROME—Over three days in May 2017, the Italian secret service—masquerading as a humanitarian nongovernmental organization—summoned to Rome two dozen delegates from the southern edge of the Sahara desert. The pretext was to promote a peace deal for their war-torn region; the real goal was to bring them on board with an Italian plan to curb migration.

    The details of the meetings, published here for the first time, expose the pitfalls of a foreign policy that conflates peace and development with migration control. This was just one piece of a wider set of European initiatives with similar features, now widely regarded as a failure by analysts and policymakers. In Libya, they contributed to igniting a humanitarian catastrophe."

    European complicity in CIA torture in 'black sites' (Amnesty, link):

    "James Mitchell looked almost wistful as he described the various ways he had tortured some of the men sitting across from him. In front of a packed courtroom at the Guantánamo detention facility, Mitchell recalled waterboarding 9/11 defendant Khalid Sheikh Mohammed dozens of times, and “walling” detainees by slamming them repeatedly into a wall. He described subjecting detainees to days of standing sleep deprivation, slapping, screaming and cursing at them; and threatening to slit the throat of one defendant’s son.

    This gruesome testimony was part of the evidence given by Mitchell at pre-trial hearings for five men due to go on trial in over the 9/11 attacks... They argue that the FBI cooperated in CIA interrogations and any statements to its agents are tainted by torture.


    Amnesty has repeatedly said that detainees at Guantánamo should be given fair trials in US federal courts or released – Guantánamo’s military tribunals do not meet international fair trial standards.

    But this renewed spotlight on Guantánamo is also an opportunity to hold to account the US’s European friends which hosted key black sites, helped to “disappear” detainees, and facilitated torture and ill-treatment. The fact that they watch the proceedings at Guantánamo from afar – unscathed and unaccountable – is also an outrage."

    Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (21.1-3.2.20) including:

    EU: New Council "strategic guidelines" frame the next five years of EU justice and home affairs policy

    The Council of the EU is moving towards the adoption of its next five-year set of strategic guidelines for justice and home affairs policies. Priorities listed in a draft document include enhancing the powers of justice and home affairs agencies, such as eu-Lisa and Europol; preventing future migration "crisis situations"; and cooperating more closely with non-EU states to control migration. The intention is for the European Council meeting to adopt the guidelines in March.

    ECHR: Requirement to collect data to identify users of pre-paid SIM cards did not violate the right to privacy (pdf):

    "In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Breyer v. Germany (application no. 50001/12) the European Court of Human Rights held, by six votes to one, that there had been: no violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

    The case concerned the storage of pre-paid SIM card users’ data by telecommunications companies.

    The Court found in particular that collecting the applicants’ names and addresses as users of pre-paid SIM cards had amounted to a limited interference with their rights. The law in question had additional safeguards while people could also turn to independent data supervision bodies to review authorities’ data requests and seek legal redress if necessary.

    Germany had not overstepped the limits of its discretion (“margin of appreciation”) in applying the law concerned and there had been no violation of the applicants’ rights by the collection of the data."

    Judgment: Breyer v Germany (application no. 50001/12, pdf)

    Viewpoint: The shadowy business of fear-mongers (pdf) by Ana González-Páramo

    Every morning, Spanish radio listeners are bombarded with advertisements for home security alarms, which spread fear of thieves, foreigners and squatters. Interestingly, such sermons mirror the mainstream narrative and messages from certain political parties. Suspicion is transmitted to a gullible society which absorbs this fear. Each European Council meeting reinforces the links between migration and security risks, adding new challenges such as terrorism, organised crime or new and emergent hybrid threats mixing all of them into one big pot. This approach favours the position of the arms and security industry, building a condensed net of private interests and ends up influencing the EU decision-making process and financing mechanisms. Nowadays, borders have become a polysemic and ever-present concept that goes beyond the physicality of a wall. Borders can be portable, digital, remote and adaptable even to the individuals they exclude and keep at bay.

    German authorities improve face recognition (Matthias Monroy, link):

    "Last week, the German Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer surprisingly moved away from plans to expand facial recognition in public spaces. He had demanded that the use of so-called intelligent video surveillance be anchored in the Federal Police Law. In the current draft of the new law, the topic is now excluded. However, it is questionable whether this really means a renunciation of the technology. The Ministry is of the opinion that § 27 of the Federal Police Act allows the automatic evaluation of camera images anyway. It states that the Federal Police may „use automatic image recording and image capturing devices“. Actually, this meant automatic continuous operation and remote control of video cameras. In the legal literature, it is therefore disputed whether the analysis of images using algorithms or artificial intelligence is covered by this."

    Greece: Nationality-based Detention in the Moria Refugee Camp (ECRE, link):

    "The NGO HIAS recently published a policy brief entitled ‘Locked Up Without Rights’ concerning the legal framework regulating the detention of asylum seekers in Greece and the use of automatic detention of single males based on their nationality.

    The policy of automatic detention identifies single men arriving from “low profile” countries to be detained in pre-removal detention centres in the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesvos. It is thus used to provide for the speedy return of third country nationals who are identified as having arrived from “safe” countries. HIAS notes that the procedure lacks sufficient legal reasoning and fails to consider the potential vulnerability of those seeking international protection. Moreover, detained individuals are not informed of the reasons for their detention and do not have access to legal assistance."

    Shots Fired, Arrests and Violent Push Back Reported at the Serbian Hungarian Border (ECRE, link):

    "Warning shots were fired by a border guard on January 28 when a group of 60 people tried to enter Hungary from Serbia through the Röszke crossing. Witnesses reported violence by the Hungarian police during push back operations and Serbian police states that they made 37 arrests of people trying to “cross the frontier illegally”.

    Hungarian Police reports on the incident at the Röszke crossing that three warning shots were fired by a border guard into the air causing no casualties “after which most of the group ran back into Serbia, while police reinforcements arrived”. Four men who ran 65 meters into the Hungarian border zone were arrested after police had sealed of the area."

    See also: The migrants are coming, the migrants are coming! (Hungarian Spectrum, link)

    EU: European Commission 2020 Work Programme: An ambitious roadmap for a Union that strives for more (press release, link):

    "Today the European Commission adopted its 2020 Work Programme. It sets out the actions the Commission will take in 2020 to turn the Political Guidelines of President von der Leyen into tangible benefits for European citizens, businesses and society. The driving force behind this first Work Programme is to successfully grasp the opportunities that the twin ecological and digital transitions will bring."

    See: Annex I: New initiatives (pdf)

    NORTHERN IRELAND: Rights watchdog will be ‘unable to fulfil duties’ if funding cuts continue (Irish Legal News, link):

    "The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) will be “unable to fulfil its duties” if funding cuts continue, its chief commissioner has warned.

    The rights watchdog is funded by the UK government through the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), but has seen its budget slashed by nearly 50 per cent in a decade.

    Chief commissioner Les Allamby and chief executive Dr David Russell met yesterday with newly-elected Finance Minister Conor Murphy, who has pressed the NIO to address the issue."

    NGO rescue boats do not receive Frontex alerts (EUobserver, link):

    "The NGO rescue boat Sea-Watch says it does not receive any alerts of maritime distress from the EU's border agency Frontex, whenever the agency spots people in trouble in the Mediterranean.

    "Frontex would not alert civil rescue ships like Sea-Watch of any distress cases they find, as they know we would then take people to a safe port in Europe," a spokesperson from the charity told EUobserver, in an email."

    EU aid increasingly taken hostage by migration politics (Oxfam, link):

    "EU development aid is increasingly being spent to close borders, stifle migration and push for returns of migrants to Africa, reveals new research published by Oxfam today. This approach is hurting the EU’s diplomatic standing and diverting aid from its true purpose of helping those in need, sometimes even worsening the situation of the people it should support.

    The report, ‘EU Trust Fund for Africa: Trapped between aid policy and migration politics’, shows how development funds under the EU Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) are increasingly tied to the domestic policy priorities of EU member states to curb migration, with over a billion euros allocated for this purpose. In contrast, just €56m is allocated to fund regular migration schemes, representing less than 1.5% of the total worth of the EUTF for Africa."

    Brexit and its consequences for cooperation in criminal matters (European Law Blog, link):

    "On January 31st, 2020, the United Kingdom withdrew from the European Union, and their mutual relationship entered in a phase of transition. After 47 years of membership, the withdrawal led to a series of changes in various policy areas, in which the UK, as an EU Member State, cooperated with its counterparts. This notably concerns police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, and the consequences of Brexit in this particular field will be our focus."

    Spain Continued to Fail in Human Rights Protection in 2019 (Liberties, link):

    "Rights International Spain has released its annual report on human rights, with the reports and resolutions by international bodies about the human rights and civil liberties situation in the country.

    Once again, the Spanish authorities have missed the opportunity to protect civil liberties and human rights in line with international standards."

    NIGER: The European chase for Saharan smugglers (Privacy International, link):

    "The wars on terror and migration have seen international funders sponsoring numerous border control missions across the Sahel region of Africa. Many of these rely on funds supposed to be reserved for development aid and lack vital transparency safeguards. After Europes's shady funds to border forces in the Sahel area and Niger's new biometric voting system, freelance journalist Giacomo Zandonini looks at the attempts to dismantle smugglers networks in the region, powered by Europe's gifts of surveillance."

    New yearly report on torture of asylum seekers by Croatian authorities at EU external borders (Border Violence Monitoring Network, link):

    "Together with a number of NGOs such as Human Rights Watch, Are You Syrious / Centre for Peace Studies, and Amnesty International, the Border Violence Monitoring Network has been working to document illegal pushbacks and police violence along the EU’s external borders in the Western Balkans since the formal closure of the route in 2017. While the existence of systematic illegal pushbacks along the Croatian and Hungarian borders with Serbia and Bosnia is evidenced extensively, this report focuses on the increasing violence that is applied to refugees and migrants under the framework of the Croatian case."

    Climate refugees: The fabrication of a migration threat (Hein de Haas, link):

    "In recent years, it has become popular to argue that climate change will lead to massive North-South movements of ‘climate refugees’. Concerns about climate change-induced migration have emerged in the context of debates on global warming. Without any doubt, global warming is one of the most pressing issues facing humanity, and the lack of willingness of states and the international community to address it effectively – particularly through reducing of carbon emissions – is a valid source of major public concern and global protest.

    However, to link this issue with the specter of mass migration is a dangerous practice based on myth rather than fact. The use of apocalyptic migration forecasts to support the case for urgent action on climate change is not only intellectually dishonest, but also puts the credibility of those using this argument - as well as the broader case for climate change action - seriously at risk."

    January 2020

    GREECE: Solidarity Statement: Freedom for Hamza Haddi and Mohamed Haddar: The European Union must stop the arbitrary incarceration of refugees and migrants (pdf)

    "We express our solidarity with Hamza Haddi and Mohamed Haddar who are currently being held in pre-trial detention in Komotini, Greece. Both are facing long prison sentences because they are being wrongfully and arbitrarily accused of "smuggling”.

    Hamza Haddi and Mohamed Haddar are Moroccan citizens who fled their country searching for protection and better living conditions, Hamza Haddi in particular is a known political activist who was hoping to be granted political asylum in Europe.

    ...Hamza Haddi and Mohamed Haddar are now accused of and are facing trial for the "smuggling" of two persons - one of them being Hamza's own brother Yassine!

    The accusations against Hamza and Mohamed are clearly unfounded. They are refugees, not smugglers."

    The statement is also available in Italian, Greek, French, German and Arabic (pdfs)

    UK: Migration committee rejects full points-based system for UK (The Guardian, link):

    "The independent migration advisory committee has rejected a full shift to an Australian points-based system, publishing detailed research which gives a picture of how a reformed immigration system might look after Brexit and the ending of freedom of movement for EU nationals.

    The Conservatives promised to introduce an “Australian-style points-based system to control immigration” as one of six key guarantees listed on page one of their manifesto. The committee’s chair dismissed the notion as a “soundbite”."

    See: Migration Advisory Committee: A Points-Based System and Salary Thresholds for Immigration (pdf)

    UK: Court of Appeal upholds the right to roam of Romany and Travellers (UK Human Rights Blog, link):

    "The Court of Appeal, in The Mayor and Burgesses of the London Borough of Bromley v Persons Unknown [2020] EWCA Civ 12 [pdf], has delivered a unanimous judgment reaffirming the rights of the Romany (‘Gypsy’) and Traveller community to live in accordance with their traditional, nomadic way of life.

    The case is significant for two reasons. First, in recent years there has been a spate of local authorities applying for injunctions which prevent Romany and Travellers setting up unauthorised encampments in their boroughs. There are now 38 of these injunctions nationwide.

    ...Second, in its judgment, the Court of Appeal reaffirms the centrality of a nomadic lifestyle to Romany and Traveller tradition and culture."

    800 migrants detained in Spain in poor conditions, says NGO (InfoMigrants, link):

    "More than 800 Tunisian migrants have been detained in the Spanish enclave of Melilla for more than 5 months, Tunesian NGO Ftdes claims.

    According to Romdhane Ben Amor of the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (Ftdes), "over 800 undocumented Tunisian migrants including women and children have been detained for more than five months in inhuman and humiliating conditions at the Melilla temporary residence for immigrants in Spain," Tap news agency reported.

    In a statement, Amor said that the migrants are housed in cluttered and dirty plastic tents, exposed to cold and lack of food. He said that the migrants had applied for asylum in Spain, but have not received any response to their requests. The migrants had reportedly also staged a sit-in but neither the Spanish nor Tunisian authorities reacted."

    UK: Met Police could deploy facial recognition against protesters (Computer Weekly, link):

    "The operational use of live facial recognition (LFR) by UK law enforcers could artificially inflate tension between political activists and police during protests, as participants may feel under pressure to conceal their identities because of privacy concerns.

    According to the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol), which monitors and resists policing that is excessive, discriminatory or threatens civil liberties, individuals who seek to conceal their identities to evade LFR on privacy grounds could unwittingly garner more attention from police who may assume they are “troublemakers”. It could also dissuade them from participating in political action all together, it added."

    See also: Facial recognition can’t tell black and brown people apart – but the police are using it anyway (gal-dem, link)

    EASO operations in Greece to expand significantly (EASO, link):

    "On 28 January 2020, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and the Greek government signed a Seat Agreement for the Hosting of the EASO Operational Office in Greece...

    The hosting agreement gives legal and administrative clarity to the status of EASO in the country, including that of its staff and assets, thus allowing the Agency to be better able to support the Hellenic asylum and reception authorities.

    Based on an Operating Plan which was signed between EASO and Greece in December 2019, the Agency is already scaling up its operational presence in support of the Greek authorities. Deployed EASO personnel will double from approximately 500 to over 1000 throughout the year. They will work to support the Greek Asylum Service, the national Dublin Unit, the Reception and Identification Service and the Appeals Authority. The personnel will include caseworkers, field support staff, reception staff, research officers for the Appeals Authority, interpreters and administrative staff."

    See: 2020 Operational & Technical Assistance Plan agreed by EASO and Greece (pdf)

    FRANCE: Death of a ten-year-old child in Roissy: another victim of European migration policies?

    This morning [8 January], the body of a child of around ten years of age was found in the landing undercarriage of an aeroplane arriving from Abidjan (Ivory Coast) to the Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport (Paris).

    Although tragedies are frequent in the Mediterranean, between the Comores and Mayotte, and in other parts of the world, this situation is more exceptional, or at least less well known, in French ports and airports.

    EU to target violent right-wing extremism, terrorism and "other extreme political movements"

    The EU is taking action to counter "right-wing violent extremism and terrorism" through information-sharing, the development of anti-radicalisation and risk analysis programmes, online censorship and cooperation with third countries. As well as the far-right, "this work shall also address violent extremism and terrorism stemming from other extreme political movements," according to a document produced by the Council Presidency in November 2019.

    EU-TUNISIA: About the plan to create a reception centre in Bir El Fatnassiya for asylum seekers who flee the degradation of the security situation in Libya

    The Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Economiques et Sociaux is following the news about the creation of a camp in the region of Bir El Fatnassiya, 15 km to the south of the city of Rmada in the governorship of Tataouine within the framework of an emergency plan. After the experience of the camp in Choucha, where volunteer citizens have taken on most of the responsibility and, after the withdrawal of international organisations, Tunisia has been forced to face the consequences of this camp's establishment, including providing accommodation for a group of asylum seekers in the youth centre in Marsa.

    Statewatch Analysis: Italy guilty of refoulements in 2009 handover of Eritrean shipwreck survivors to Libya (pdf) by Yasha Maccanico:

    An Italian court has ruled that the country’s Cabinet presidency and defence ministry were responsible for the refoulement of 14 Eritrean nationals in July 2009, when a warship rescued some 80 people and took them back to Libya, ignoring requests for international protection.

    More than 150 migrants rescued by Open Arms, 400 others to disembark in Italy (InfoMigrants, link):

    "The humanitarian rescue vessel Open Arms picked up 158 migrants in two rescue operations off the coast of Libya overnight. Since Thursday, three NGO ships have rescued nearly 640 people. Over 400 migrants on board the Ocean Viking will be allowed to disembark in Taranto, Italy.

    The Spanish NGO Open Arms said on Twitter that it had taken on board 56 people during a first rescue operation late Monday evening. The migrants were travelling in international waters and the operation was completed after the Open Arms boat's engine was "provisionally repaired".

    A few hours later the rescue vessel took on board another 102 migrants from a boat in distress. According to Open Arms, it saved them from "probable death"."

    EU gearing up for even more anti-crime measures (EUobserver, link):

    "The European Commission is preparing a raft of what it describes as new measures against terrorism, drugs, and crime.

    Speaking to reporters in Zagreb after meeting EU interior ministers on Friday (24 January), the European Commissioner for home affairs Ylva Johansson announced she is also "preparing to reinforce the mandate of [the EU's police agency] Europol", based in The Hague.

    On drugs, Johansson said a new EU agenda will be proposed noting that illicit substances have become more widespread, cheaper and more potent. On crime she said plans are underway to freeze and recover assets. And on terrorism, she wants new plans to protect critical infrastructure, such as energy, transport, finance and health."

    FRANCE: When “Anti-Populism” Makes the Far Right Mainstream (Jacobin, link):

    "When the far-right Front National (FN) changed its name to Rassemblement National (National Rally, or RN) in June 2018, media commentary tended to follow a familiar pattern — taking party leader Marine Le Pen’s words at face value. The Associated Press interpreted the change as an indication of the party’s desire to “appeal to a broader range of voters.” It drew a similar, if rather odd, conclusion about the party’s modified logo: the organization’s “traditional flames” had been put “inside a partially closed circle to signal a new openness.”

    A more skeptical eye might have discerned a rather closed kind of openness here, while a more informed one may have noted that the “traditional flames” were originally the emblem of the Movimento Sociale Italiano, a neofascist organization of die-hard Mussolini loyalists."

    The EU is funding dystopian Artificial Intelligence projects (EurActiv, link):

    "Discussions on the negative impact of Artificial Intelligence in society include horror stories plucked from either China’s high-tech surveillance state and its use of the controversial social credit system, or from the US and its use of recidivism algorithms and predictive policing.

    Typically, Europe is excluded from these stories, due to the perception that EU citizens are protected from such AI-fueled nightmares through the legal protection offered by the GDPR, or because there is simply no horror-inducing AI deployed across the continent.

    In contrast to this perception, journalists and NGOs have shown that imperfect and ethically questionable AI systems such as facial recognition, fraud detection and smart (a.k.a surveillance) cities, are also in use across Europe."

    Eritrean asylum seekers hold protest in Slovenia over asylum process, rejected applications (InfoMigrants, link):

    "A group of Eritrean asylum seekers have held a protest in Slovenia against asylum request procedures, which the community sees as unfair. They also demonstrated against the rejection of five asylum claims filed by Eritreans.

    Eritrean asylum seekers protested Wednesday morning in front of the building hosting them in the center of the Slovenian capital. The demonstration was an attempt to draw the attention of the government and the public to asylum procedures, which the protesters see as unfair.

    The approximately 15 protestors claim that Slovenia should grant asylum to all Eritrean citizens filing a request because the country is the "North Korea of the African continent," as one banner stated."

    ITALY: Emilia-Romagna: Hard right fails to seize leftist stronghold (Al Jazeera, link):

    "Italy's hard-right League leader Matteo Salvini has failed to overturn decades of left-wing rule in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna in an election that brought relief to the embattled centre-left.

    With 98 percent of the ballots counted, incumbent Democratic Party (PD) Governor Stefano Bonaccini had won 51.4 percent of the vote from Sunday's poll, compared with 43.7 percent for Lucia Borgonzoni, the candidate backed by the League and its allies, interior ministry data showed."

    UK: Priti Patel’s plan to tackle radicalised youth is so flawed it’s mad, says study (The Guardian, link):

    "A Home Office-funded study into tackling radicalisation among young people has concluded that the approach being pushed through by the home secretary, Priti Patel, is so flawed that it is “madness”.

    Instead the research, which will be unveiled on Wednesday and is described as one of the biggest scientific surveys of its type in Europe, found that the most effective strategy was precisely the opposite approach pursued by Patel. Generating “positive psychology” among young people was found to be significantly more effective than punitive policies when challenging “violent youth radicalisation”, defined as gang crime through to the development of extreme ideologies.

    Its conclusions contradict Patel’s hardline approach, typified by measures announced last week that emphasised longer jail terms for violent and terrorist offenders, lie-detector tests and increased monitoring."

    Background: Tougher sentencing and monitoring in government overhaul of terrorism response (Home Office, link)

    Germany: Over 500 right-wing extremists suspected in Bundeswehr (DW, link):

    "Germany's Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD) has said it was investigating 550 Bundeswehr soldiers suspected of right-wing extremism, German newspaper Welt am Sonntag reported on Sunday.

    Numerous cases of extremism in the German military and among other security forces have been brought to light in recent years, as the government struggles to contain right-wing extremist threats and violence.

    An additional 360 cases of suspected right-wing extremism were registered in 2019, Christof Gramm, the head of MAD, told Welt am Sonntag."

    See: Statewatch Analysis: Germany: Shadow army or isolated cases? Right-wing structures in the security authorities (pdf)

    Historic UN Human Rights case opens door to climate change asylum claims (UN Human Rights, link):

    "GENEVA (21 January 2020) – In its first ruling on a complaint by an individual seeking asylum from the effects of climate change, the UN Human Rights Committee* has stated that countries may not deport individuals who face climate change-induced conditions that violate the right to life.

    ...The Committee determined that in Mr. Teitiota's specific case, New Zealand's courts did not violate his right to life at the time of the facts, because the thorough and careful evaluation of his testimony and other available information led to the determination that, despite the serious situation in Kiribati, sufficient protection measures were put in place. "Nevertheless," said Committee expert Yuval Shany, "this ruling sets forth new standards that could facilitate the success of future climate change-related asylum claims.""

    See the ruling: Views adopted by the Committee under article 5 (4) of the Optional Protocol, concerning communication No. 2728/2016 (pdf)

    BREXIT: The EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Act: what does it do? (Lexology, link):

    "In short, the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 ("WAA"):

    But the WAA does not mean that Brexit is "done", as the UK still needs to negotiate the terms of its future relationship with the EU."

    See: European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 (pdf) and: Political Declaration setting out the
    framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom
    (19 October 2019, pdf)

    ITALY: Giving names to victims — deaths in Italian deportation centres (AYS Daily Digest 20/01/20, link)

    "Twentynine people died in Italian deportation centres from 1998 until 2020.

    The last death occurred on Saturday 18th January 2020 in the CPR of Gradisca d’Isonzo, when Vakhtang Enukidze lost his life, as he was surrounded by 8 policemen in riot gears and beaten heavily, causing him fatal injuries.

    Therefore, today’s digest will, in a way, try to pay respect to those “invisible” deaths occurred by the hand of the Italian state, those deaths that are not investigated properly because the victims are “unwanted” in the country, guilty of being alone in a hostile land."

    GREECE: January 2020 Report on Rights Violations and Resistance in Lesvos (Legal Centre Lesvos, link):

    "A. Situation Report in Lesvos, as of 15/1/2020

  • Total population of registered asylum seekers and refugees on Lesvos: 21,268
  • Registered Population of Moria Camp & Olive Grove: 19,184
  • Registered unaccompanied minors: 1,049
  • Total Detained: 88
  • Total Arrivals in Lesvos from Turkey in 2020: 1,015
  • Over 19,000 people are now living in Moria Camp – the main refugee camp on the island – yet the Camp lacks any official infrastructure, such as housing, security, electricity, sewage, schools, health care, etc. While technically, most individuals are allowed to leave this camp, it has become an open-air prison, as they must spend most of their day in hours long lines for food, toilets, doctors, and the asylum office."

    SCOTLAND: Far-right activist sent to Scotland to infiltrate army as veterans targeted by race hate groups (Daily Record, link):

    "Since the Iraq War, the British military in Scotland has made huge progress in becoming an inclusive and diverse organisation but ­accusations of endemic racism within its ranks have surfaced.

    We can reveal that far-right extremist group For Britain has deployed an activist in Scotland to try to develop links among serving and retired forces personnel.

    Our probe also revealed soldiers with links to Nazi thugs’ group Combat 18."

    EU: MONITORYOU: the MilliONs beIng spenT by the eu on develOping surveillance tech to taRget YOU (Privacy International, link):

    "The European Union (EU) spends billions on research and development aimed at driving economic growth and jobs, as well as furthering the bloc’s broader agenda. Within the current budget, known as Horizon 2020 and covering the years 2014-2020, some €80 billion has been made available for research in a huge number of areas, ranging from finding cures for diseases to helping keep the earth viable for life.

    From the same budget, it also funds a lot of projects aimed at developing surveillance technology. Successive research budgets have ploughed billions in euros to surveillance companies, government security agencies, and universities to conduct research and develop products to complement EU and national internal security policies.

    Much of the funding goes to companies which sell surveillance tech to governments or to government agencies which themselves carry out surveillance. This not only furthers surveillance capabilities; it takes money away from other vital research."

    UK: Tougher sentencing and monitoring in government overhaul of terrorism response (Home Office, link):

    "Confirmed by Home Secretary Priti Patel and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland QC, the new Counter-Terrorism Bill, to be introduced in the first 100 days of this government, will force dangerous terrorist offenders who receive extended determinate sentences to serve the whole time behind bars and ensure those convicted of serious offences such as preparing acts of terrorism or directing a terrorist organisation spend a mandatory minimum of 14 years in prison.

    It will also overhaul the terrorist licensing regime, doubling the number of specialist counter-terrorism probation officers and introducing measures such as polygraph testing. It will increase the number of places available in probation hostels so that authorities can keep closer tabs on terrorists in the weeks after they are released from prison."

    USA: We’re Banning Facial Recognition. We’re Missing the Point. (The New York Times, link) by Bruce Schneier:

    "... facial recognition bans are the wrong way to fight against modern surveillance. Focusing on one particular identification method misconstrues the nature of the surveillance society we’re in the process of building. Ubiquitous mass surveillance is increasingly the norm. In countries like China, a surveillance infrastructure is being built by the government for social control. In countries like the United States, it’s being built by corporations in order to influence our buying behavior, and is incidentally used by the government.

    In all cases, modern mass surveillance has three broad components: identification, correlation and discrimination. Let’s take them in turn."

    POLAND: 1460 Days Later: Rule of Law in Poland R.I.P. (Part I) (Verfassungsblog, link):

    "On 13 January 2016, exactly four years ago today, the Commission activated its rule of law framework for the very first time with respect to Poland (for our previous 2-part post assessing the situation as of 13 January 2019 see here).

    During this time, Poland has become the first EU Member State:

    As if to outdo itself when it comes to annihilating judicial independence, Poland’s ruling party has rushed an unprecedented piece of legislation last month."

    Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (14-20.1.20) including:

    UK: Corin Redgrave Memorial Lecture 2020: Justice In A Broken World by Professor David Andress - Saturday 14 March 2020, London (pdf):

    "Human Rights are one of the most powerful expressions of a commitment to justice in the world. Yet they have been from their origins compromised even by those who declared them. This lecture will consider whether alternative ways of framing the goals of a rights driven order might offer different routes to achieving more of such goals in the future."

    DENMARK: 'Unacceptable for people': Danish asylum centre slammed in anti-torture report (The Local, link):

    "The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture published on Tuesday a highly critical report on a detention centre in Denmark.

    The committee called the centre at Ellebæk in North Zealand “unacceptable for people”.

    ...The report is based on visits to Ellebæk and other detention centres including Nykøbing Falster Arrest.

    Both facilities house migrants who are under arrest based on Denmark’s immigration laws (Udlændingeloven), but not for committing crimes."

    See: Report to the Danish Government on the visit to Denmark carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhumanor Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 3 to 12 April 2019 (pdf)

    EU mulls five-year ban on facial recognition tech in public areas (Reuters, link):

    "The European Union is considering banning facial recognition technology in public areas for up to five years, to give it time to work out how to prevent abuses, according to proposals seen by Reuters.

    The plan by the EU’s executive - set out in an 18-page white paper - comes amid a global debate about the systems driven by artificial intelligence and widely used by law enforcement agencies.

    The EU Commission said new tough rules may have to be introduced to bolster existing regulations protecting Europeans’ privacy and data rights."

    See the document: Structure for the White Paper on artifical intelligence - a European approach (pdf) which notes that rather than a ban "it would be preferable to focus at this stage on full implementation of the provisions in the General Data Protection Regulation."

    UK: Greenpeace included with neo-Nazis on UK counter-terror list (The Guardian, link):

    "A counter-terrorism police document distributed to medical staff and teachers as part of anti-extremism briefings included Greenpeace, Peta and other non-violent groups as well as neo-Nazis, the Guardian has learned.

    The guide, produced by Counter Terrorism Policing, is used across England as part of training for Prevent, the anti-radicalisation scheme designed to catch those at risk of committing terrorist violence.

    ...the list of groups viewed as a potential concern contained in the new 24-page document includes Extinction Rebellion. It also includes Greenpeace – among whose supporters are Dame Judi Dench, Stephen Fry, Gillian Anderson and Joanna Lumley – and the ocean pollution campaigners Sea Shepherd, whose supporters include Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan. Also included is Stop the Badger Cull, which is backed by Sir Brian May, the Queen guitarist."

    See: The document produced by Counter Terrorism Policing (pdf) and: Non-violent protesters are not terrorists and it’s time the police accepted that (The Guardian, link)

    EU: How do the European media cover migration? (European Journalism Observatory, link):

    "In the five years since the European refugee crisis began, controversies related to migration have deeply affected political landscapes across the EU, yet no “European solutions” have so far been found. A new study by the European Journalism Observatory (EJO) now shines a light on the media’s role in the migration debate.

    EJO’s comparative analysis reveals that in each country, the media tell different stories about migrants and refugees. Clear differences in the quantity and quality of coverage can be discerned not only between Western and Central Eastern Europe, but even within Western Europe. The study also reveals a number of blind spots in the coverage of migration."

    Europeans seek ‘lawful’ ways of intercepting 5G communications (EurActiv, link):

    "The European Commission is working alongside Europol and EU member states to “identify appropriate ways of preserving lawful interception capabilities in 5G networks,” said Ylva Johansson, the EU’s Home Affairs Commissioner.

    ...improved standards in mobile communications may, in turn, allow for a user’s identity and location to be protected, therefore undermining police authorities’ ability to conduct “lawful interception” – in other words, wiretapping or eavesdropping.

    In Europe, fears among politicians and police authorities in this regard are starting to provoke ideas about how these higher levels of encryption may be bypassed.

    “The Commission, Europol and Member States’ law enforcement authorities are working together to identify appropriate ways of preserving lawful interception capabilities in 5G networks,” a written statement from Commissioner Johansson said on Monday (13 January)."

    See: Statewatch Analysis: A world without wiretapping? Official documents highlight concern over effects 5G technology will have on "lawful interception" (pdf)

    UK: Police leaders to start bidding for more tasers from today (Home Office, link):

    "Police and Crime Commissioners across England and Wales can start bidding today to equip more of their officers with tasers as part of a Home Office drive to give police more powers and tools to tackle crime.

    This follows the Home Secretary’s commitment to put more officers carrying tasers on our streets through a £10 million ring fenced fund, allowing them to better protect themselves and others from harm.

    Bidding will open on a new online platform launched by the Home Office, where forces will decide how much funding they apply for based on the threat and risk in their local area."

    UK: The Queen’s Speech: setting the ‘public’ against its ‘enemies’ (IRR, link) by Frances Webber:

    "What will be the ramifications of the Conservative government’s policies, as set out in the December Queen’s Speech, for BAME communities and all those fighting for racial justice, both domestically and internationally?

    In the field of criminal justice, the proposed new offence of criminal trespass on land dramatically intensifies the war on Gypsies and Travellers – communities under siege from local authorities and central government...

    Other ‘tough on crime’ proposed legislation will stipulate longer sentences for those convicted of serious violence, sexual or terrorism offences, with a 14-year minimum proposed for the most serious terrorism offences, and restrictions on early release...

    In the field of immigration and asylum, the deletion of the May government’s pledge to retain the right of stranded child refugees to join family members in the UK following Brexit has angered those working with child refugees in Calais and elsewhere in Europe...

    In a blow against those wishing to show international solidarity, public bodies such as local authorities and universities are to be banned from ‘imposing their own direct or indirect boycotts, divestment or sanctions [BDS] campaigns’..."

    See: The Conservative government programme: The Queen's Speech 2019 (pdf)

    GREECE: Migrants face increasingly hostile conditions (Al Jazeera, link):

    "Refugees and migrants trying to make their journey into Europe are facing increasingly hostile conditions - forcing them to take huge risks to their safety.

    Closed borders, police brutality and a suspicious public are combining to make already desperate journeys often impossible.

    In the first of a series of reports on the main overland route from Greece to Croatia, Al Jazeera's Laurence Lee found refugees are becoming increasingly reliant on organised people smuggling."

    UNHCR’s Recommendations for the Croatian and German Presidencies of the Council of the European Union (EU) January - December 2020 (pdf):

    1. Moving ahead with sustainable asylum reform

    I. Foster responsibility sharing and solidarity within the EU;
    II. Ensure access to territory and fair and fast procedures;
    III. Support integration and efficient and rights-based return systems;
    IV. Invest in resettlement and complementary pathways; and
    V. Addressing statelessness.

    2. Providing more development and peacebuilding support for the countries where most refugees live and originate from

    I. Asylum and forced displacement in the new Neighbourhood, Development and
    International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI)
    II. EU political leverage to promote inclusion of refugees.

    Transforming the EU in a freedom security and justice area: first Council ideas for a Strategic Agenda (2019-2024) (free-group.eu, link):

    "This is a joint discussion paper for both justice and home affairs submitted by the Croatian Presidency to the other delegations and to be debated at the Informal JHA Council in Zagreb on January 23rd-24th."

    Greece: Chios: Protesters boo, throw water bottles at Dep Labor Minister over Migration policy (keeptalkinggreece.com, link):

    "Serious incidents erupted in the town hall of the island of Chios on Monday night, where Deputy Minister of Labor, Notis Mitarakis was booed and became the target of protesters angry over the government’s migration policy and the creation of a new structure for refugees and migrants.

    A group of protesters had gathered outside the town hall and started to boo and fire insults when the deputy minister arrived. Mitarakis was helped by to seek refugee inside the hall.

    The protesters finally broke the door outside and entered the building. Some of them reportedly threw water bottles and coffee cups at the minister.

    Police detianed two of the protesters, one of them was arrested."

    Dozens of German cities petition to take in more refugees (DW, link):

    "The European Union has decreased its Mediterranean rescue efforts, while Greece and Italy are struggling to deal with displaced people who have already arrived. German cities are demanding permission to take action."

    Greece to build new facilities for 15,000 migrants (euobserver, link):

    "The Greek government has decided to build 10 new facilities to house 15,000 migrants, as new irregular arrivals from neighbouring Turkey continue. Nine of the 10 centres will be built in western Macedonia and one on the island of Crete. The purpose is to relocate people from overpopulated migration camps on the Aegean island as soon as possible. The first 10,000 migrants should be relocated in February."

    Chios municipal council rejected plan for closed migrant centre (ekathimerini.com, link):

    "The municipal council of the island of Chios, in the eastern Aegean, rejected a government proposal to set up a new, closed pre-departure center for migrants on the island, in a marathon session that ended at midnight on Monday."

    Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (17.12.19-13.1.20) including:

    UK: History repeats itself with calls to introduce mandatory SIM registration

    An official review of police action against 'county lines' drugs gangs has said that the possibility for people to purchase and use mobile phone SIM cards anonymously "enables criminality" and that the Home Office "should commission a review of the criminal abuse of mobile telecommunications services" by the end of 2020.

    IRELAND: Concerns 'spying powers' still being used despite ruling Irish legislation breached EU law (Irish Examiner, link):

    "The use of a controversial spying power by law enforcement agencies has fallen sharply since a landmark ruling that Irish legislation breached EU law.

    However, one legal authority expressed concern that the powers are still being used to a significant extent despite the ruling.

    TJ McIntyre, associate professor of law at UCD, said the exercise of the powers is in breach of both the High Court judgement of December 2018 and previous European court rulings.

    The High Court ruled that 2011 legislation allowing State agencies to access people’s private communication data provided for an “indiscriminate” data-retention regime and breached privacy rights under EU law and the European Convention on Human Rights."

    UK: Priti Patel defends inclusion of Extinction Rebellion on UK terror list (The Guardian, link):

    "The home secretary, Priti Patel, has defended anti-terror police for putting the Extinction Rebellion environmental protest group on a list of extremist ideologies, saying it was important to look at “a range of security risks”.

    While accepting that XR was not a terrorist organisation, Patel told LBC radio that such assessment had to be “based in terms of risk to the public, security risks, security threats”."

    See: Terrorism police list Extinction Rebellion as extremist ideology (The Guardian, link) and: UK: Files on politicians, journalists and peace protestors held by police in "domestic extremist" database (Statewatch News, November 2013)

    Europol Study: Disclosure of electronic evidence often fails due to incompetence of authorities (Matthias Monroy, link):

    "The planned EU e-Evidence regulation is intended to force Internet service providers to cooperate more with police and judicial authorities. However, a survey shows that the companies already comply with their requests voluntarily. But they are often incorrect and thus rejected."

    See: Europol: SIRIUS EU Digital Evidence Situation Report 2019: Cross-border access to electronic evidence (pdf)

    UK: Undercover Inequality: Help challenge sexism in the justice system (CrowdJustice, link):

    "When does lying in a sexual relationship undermine consent?

    The criminal justice system currently imprisons young women found guilty of impersonating men in a sexual relationship. But, when male undercover police have sex with women in order to gather intelligence on social justice and environmental movements, they have committed no crime.

    Help us challenge this sexism and clarify the criminal law."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    SCOTLAND: SCVO warns against extension of Scottish Freedom of Information Act (ThirdSector, link):

    "Extending the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act to charities that deliver public sector services would create a "disproportionate burden" on voluntary sector organisations, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations has warned the Scottish government.

    In its response last month to a consultation by the Scottish government about extending FOI legislation, the SCVO says it has concerns about the "potential financial and operational implications" for the voluntary sector and the lack of engagement with the sector to date, particularly during the consultation period.

    The consultation, which closed last month, suggested extending the FOI Act in Scotland to cover organisations that deliver public services."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    GERMANY: New analysis: Shadow army or isolated cases? Right-wing structures in the security authorities

    Over two years after the case of Franco A came to light, public attention and official sensitivity to the problem of right-wing attitudes and structures in the military and police have decreased significantly. Nevertheless, individual revelations about right-wing structures and incidents in the Bundeswehr (Germany army) and the police continue to raise questions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The administrative offices were also damaged.

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

    No one was injured. "

    UK: DNA supplied by public to trace their ancestry should be available to police, according to majority of Britons (The Telegraph, link):

    "DNA that the public supply to private firms to trace their ancestry should be available to police investigating crimes, says a majority of Britons.

    Some 55 per cent of people believe that the police should be able to access the DNA records of people held in private databases, according to a YouGov poll of 1,621 adults.

    About one in 20 (five per cent) of Britons, equivalent to around 2.5 million people, told researchers they had used a DNA test kit, with a further eight per cent, saying they planned to do so in the future."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    50 countries ranked by how they’re collecting biometric data and what they’re doing with it (Comparitech, link):

    "From passport photos to accessing bank accounts with fingerprints, the use of biometrics is growing at an exponential rate. And while using your fingerprint may be easier than typing in a password, just how far is too far when it comes to biometric use, and what’s happening to your biometric data once it’s collected, especially where governments are concerned?

    Here at Comparitech, we’ve analyzed 50 different countries to find out where biometrics are being taken, what they’re being taken for, and how they’re being stored. While there is huge scope for biometric data collection, we have taken 5 key areas that apply to most countries (so as to offer a fair country-by-country comparison and to ensure the data is available). Each country has been scored out of 25, with high scores indicating extensive and invasive use of biometrics and/or surveillance and a low score demonstrating better restrictions and regulations regarding biometric use and surveillance."

    Pole and Hungarian brothers be – EU member states fuel the rise of pro-government propaganda with taxpayers money (Atlatszo, link):

    "With almost 500 media titles owned by one pro-government foundation and hundreds of millions of euros of state advertising yearly to fuel it, the right-wing Hungarian government built the largest propaganda machinery in Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Poland follows suit with a growing stream of taxpayers money transferred to media openly supporting the governing party. In return, both governments can count on propaganda broadcasts and no difficult questions from journalists."

    UK: More police, more prosecutions, more punishment (CCJS, link):

    "To 1945, 1979 and 1997 might be added 2019: a pivotal General Election with the potential to reshape policy and politics in the UK for a generation.

    In the case of criminal justice, we should expect a resumption of the kind of criminal justice growth and expansion last seen under the Labour governments between 1997 and 2010, an expansion that, temporarily at least, the coalition and Conservative governments between 2010 and 2019 successfully halted... After a decade of no prison growth, the new government looks set to pick up where the Major, Blair and Brown governments left off."

    Facial recognition fails on race, government study says (BBC News, link):

    "A US government study suggests facial recognition algorithms are far less accurate at identifying African-American and Asian faces compared to Caucasian faces.

    African-American females were even more likely to be misidentified, it indicated.

    It throws fresh doubt on whether such technology should be used by law enforcement agencies."

    See: NIST Study Evaluates Effects of Race, Age, Sex on Face Recognition Software (NIST, link)

    UK: MI5 policy allowing informants to commit serious crimes ruled lawful (The Guardian, link):

    "MI5’s partially secret policy allowing agents and informants to participate in serious crimes is lawful, judges have ruled by a three-to-two majority.

    In a 56-page judgment, the investigatory powers tribunal (IPT), which hears legal complaints about the intelligence agencies, declared that the guidelines do not breach human rights or grant absolute immunity to those who commit offences such as murder or torture.

    It is the first time the IPT has published dissenting judgments, both of which in this case are highly critical of the statutory framework surrounding the handling of agents. Many of the key arguments turned on the exploitation of informants within the IRA and loyalist paramilitaries during Northern Ireland’s Troubles."

    Judgment: Privacy International & others v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs & others ([2019] UKIPTrib IPT_17_186_CH, pdf) and: Press summary (pdf)

    The ever-rising securitisation of mixed migration (Mixed Migration Centre, link):

    "Over the last decade there has been a surge in the securitisation of different aspects of migration, especially in relation to mixed flows, including refugees, using irregular pathways. This essay outlines what securitised and criminalised mixed migration looks like and how security concerns are used to justify and normalise what were previously exceptional policies and practices around the world. It will also explore how these trends might change in the future."

    UK: Decade of dissent: how protest is shaking the UK and why it’s likely to continue (The Conversation, link):

    "This is the age of dissent – and the last decade saw a large rise in protest events across the UK. The relative social peace of the 1990s and 2000s has given way to a period of economic crisis and social conflict, sparked by the global economic crisis of 2008 and its aftermath.

    Many viewed 2011 as the high point of this wave of protest – with occupations of public spaces taking place across the globe, not least during the Arab Spring. But the trend has, in fact, continued to proliferate throughout the decade. While austerity was the initial driver of protest in the UK, a wide range of issues are now leading to dissent.

    ...In 2019 there were over 280 reported protest events, compared with 154 in 2010 – and only 83 in 2007, the year before the global economic crisis hit."

    UK Police Snowden Probe Declared "Inactive" (Ryan Gallagher, link):

    "In 2013, London's Metropolitan Police began a criminal investigation focusing on journalists who reported stories from a trove of secret documents leaked by the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. Now, after six years and no arrests or prosecutions, the Met has confirmed that the investigation has been shelved.

    The Met told me in response to a recent Freedom of Information request that the investigation is "inactive pending further information being received." Since 2014, I've had several updates from the Met regarding the investigation, and this marks the first time that its status has changed from "ongoing." In November 2017, the Met stated that it was a "complex investigation and enquiries continue."

    The investigation, which was given the code-name Operation Curable, had been led by the Met's Counter-Terrorism Command, under the direction of assistant commissioner Mark Rowley. In March 2018, Rowley retired from the Met -- and with his departure, it seems the Curable investigation went cold."


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