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

This Observatory covers the arrival of refugees and migrants, the reactions and failures within the EU (both governmental and within communities). Edited by Tony Bunyan. See: "We are ashamed": Statement on Mediterranean: "The EU is behaving shamefully"

February 2016



Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (29.2.16)
Greece bans media scrutiny: Media not allowed into Greek migrant camps (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Greek authorities have suspended media access to all migrant registration and transit camps in the country, citing overcrowding in the facilities.

An immigration policy ministry announcement Monday said no permits would be issued for members of the media to visit mainland or island migrant facilities "until further notice."

This comes on top of MEP asks the Commission to clarify the legal position of NGOs and volunteers who give humanitarian assistance to refugees

Statement: by the NATO Secretary General on NATO support to assist with the refugee and migrant crisis (25.2.16, NATO link):

"NATOs task is not to turn back the boats. We will provide critical information. To enable the Greek and Turkish coastguards, as well as Frontex, to do their job even more effectively....

Let me also address the issue of Search and Rescue. The obligation to help people in distress at sea is a general, universal responsibility. It applies to all vessels. Regardless of whether they are part of a NATO or national mission. If Allied vessels encounter people in distress at sea, they have to live up to their national responsibility to assist.

In case of rescue of persons coming via Turkey, they will be taken back to Turkey. In carrying out their tasks, our nations will abide by national and international law."

This statement begs the question: If the sea is calm and a refugee boat is clearly not "in distress" will they be "rescued" and returned en masse to Turkey by NATO?

See: Excellent article: The NATO pushbacks in the Aegean and international law (link) by Thomas Spijkerboer, Professor of Migration Law: "The most directly applicable case is the 2012 Hirsi Jamaa judgment, in which the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights passed judgment on the Italian pushbacks, which consisted of transferring migrants from vessels onto Italian navy vessels and returning to Libya without any procedure. The Court held that a state exercises de jure jurisdiction over vessels flying its flag, and therefore the migrants were under Italian jurisdiction. It added that Italy could not evade the exercise of jurisdiction by arguing that its activities constitute a search and rescue action just like NATO is doing at present....

The conclusion has to be that the NATO actions are in violation of international law; and that the relevant parts of international law are binding on NATO states because they exercise jurisdiction over migrants. Returning migrants to Turkey as envisioned violates the prohibition of refoulement, also when it happens in the form of search and rescue." [emphasis added]

Greece: How the City of Kozani Responded When 400 Refugees Showed Up (.pappaspost.com, link):

"Lefteris Ioannides, the mayor of Kozani in northern Greece didnt blink, when he was informed by police that there were hundreds of stranded refugees at the Greek border town of Idomeni and there were busloads heading towards his city.

Within a matter of three hours he mobilized the entire city, but not without a bit of resistance, that he worked to overcome without issues.

A site was located to house 400 people comfortably the gymnasium of one of the local schools after the initial proposed site at another gymnasium, owned by one of the local Greek Orthodox monasteries in the region refused to allow the facilitys use for refugees.

A team of journalists were in charge of laying down blankets and making the cavernous room more welcoming, while a team of university students helped clean the welcome center."

Greek islands faced with a creepy humanitarian crisis (euractiv, link): "The non-implementation of the decisions made at the latest EU summit has led the refugee crisis-hit Greek islands to an unprecedented situation.

[In Leros] Due to the lack of large morgues on the island, many corpses [of immigrants] were placed in ice cream freezers, the source stressed, adding:

When in one week you have to manage a big number of corpses what are you doing? We are trying to handle the situation but we lack equipment [&] the assistance from the European Civil Protection Mechanism is poor, [a source] underlined."

Greek General calls for activation of NATO Article 4 as relations with Austria reach Cold-War level (keeptalkinggreece.comm link): "The Activation of Article 4 of the NATO can force Austria and FYROM to consultation on refugees, migration and closed borders. This proposal comes from General Christos Manolas, until February 2015 Chief of Staff for Greek Land Forces.

In a statement submitted to Greek website for military affairs OnAlert, , Manolas argues that the activation of Article 4 would get Austria and FYROM on the table for consultations and would give Greece a tool to exert pressure to these two countries with regards to closure of the borders to refugees and migrants.

Austria and FYROM are not NATO members but members of Partnership For Peace. The PFP is a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) program aimed at creating trust between NATO and other states in Europe and the former Soviet Union."

FYROM tear-gasses refugees awaiting to cross, Austria, Czech Rep sent police units (keeptalkinggreece.comm link):

"The refugees have become very angry after the long delays of border crossing as Skopje open the gates only on and off. On Sunday, borders opened from 9 pm until 4 am and only 305 people went through and not 500 per day as it was supposedly to happen. On Monday, borders opened 11:30-12 and only 10 people went through. No wonder that the thousands awaiting got angry. They threw stones at the FYROM police and were changing Open the border! and see: EUs evil Plan B: Cutting the Balkan Route, Bottling up thousands of Refugees and Migrants in Greece (keeptalkinggreece.comm link): "he closure of borders in the north of Greece has created chaos: thousands of refugees and migrants wandering from Athens to Idomeni without knowing where to sleep and what to eat, where to lay their kids and elderly to sleep. FYROM, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria has closed their border today. "

Migrants protest at Greece-Macedonia border as bottleneck builds (AFP, link):

"Idomeni (Greece) (AFP) - Stranded migrants lay with their children on rail tracks at Greece's northern border, demanding to be allowed to continue their journey, as Germany warned that Europe cannot let the country "plunge into chaos".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was speaking as Athens said that the number of migrants trapped in Greece could triple after Balkan countries announced a daily cap on migrant arrivals. Tensions between European nations worst affected by the migrant crisis are running high, with Austria's Chancellor Werner Faymann accusing Greece of "behaving like a travel agency" for migrants hoping to start new lives elsewhere in Europe."

Greece-Macedonia: Turmoil at Idomeni; refugees occupy the railway tracks (ANAmpa, link): "Turmoil prevails currently at Idomeni (Greece-Fyrom buffer zone) where a number of refugees have blocked the railway track and are throwing stones against Fyrom's police officers."

and Migrants charge through Macedonia fence on Greek border (BBC News, link): "A crowd of migrants has burst through a barbed-wire fence on the Macedonia-Greece border using a steel pole as a battering ram. TV footage showed migrants pushing against the fence at Idomeni, ripping away barbed wire, as Macedonian police let off tear gas to force them away."

and also: FYROM police fire tear gas at migrants (ekathimerini.com, link): "Police said 500 people earlier pushed their way past Greek police to reach the gate used to let trains through at the border crossing.About 6,500 people are stuck on the Greek side of the border. Some have been there for up to eight days with little food or shelter as FYROM only accepts a trickle of people every day. [AP]"

Greece Drafts EU Emergency Migrant Action (Sputnik News, link):

"Immigration Policy Alternate Minister said that Greek government drafted an EU plan of emergency action to control the number of migrants and refugees.... round 22,000 migrants and refugees have found themselves stranded in Greece after the Baltic transit route countries drastically cut entrance numbers. Mouzalas projected the figure to grow more than twofold by mid-March.

"There are plans when borders are closed&We are building emergency camps not the usual reception centers with tents in fields," he stressed, allaying fears that the migrants and refugees would stay in Greece indefinitely...Mouzalas further reassured that there would be "nothing wrong" with declaring a state of emergency in the southern region of Attica as a means of civil defense."

News (29.2.16)

Europe slaps new restrictions on migrants, fails to show solidarity (dailysabah.com/europe, link): "Despite warnings from international organizations that restrictive measures will not stop the influx of migrants, many EU countries continue to introduce new measures, including razor wire and border checks since the beginning of the year"

Greece: More Refugees and Migrants Arrive on Islands on Monday (Greek Reporter, link): "Approximately 2,500 migrants and refugees have been identified and ready to depart from Lesvos to Piraeus or Kavala port. 1,450 refugees that arrived on Lesvos from Sunday until Monday morning have been identified at Morias hotspot while 500 persons are currently waiting to be identified."

Germany petitions North African states to take more migrants back (DW, link): "Germany's interior minister is in North Africa to propose the speeding up of repatriation for rejected asylum seekers. The development of biometric identity papers is on the agenda."

Europes most hostile port of entry - Bulgaria puts out its own welcome mat for migrants (politico, link): "We tried the Bulgarian border four times and the final time we were successful but then we met the police, said Ali. They shot in the air, they set dogs on us and one father who tried to defend his daughter from the dogs got beaten by the police. They took our phones that we were using for GPS and ¬200 each. They looked everywhere, even our underwear. There was a man with disabilities who couldnt understand what the police were telling him, but they beat him anyway. We heard these rumors about Bulgaria but there is no other way for us"

Greece: Refugees protest against new Macedonian border controls (DW, link): "About 300 migrants have staged a sit-in on railway tracks connecting Greece and Macedonia, forcing a train to turn back. Refugees say the country's entry limits are now too stringent."

Orban: EU leaders lack will to stop migrants (euobserver, link): "Hungarys prime minister, Viktor Orban, said Sunday (28 February) EU leaders had no will to get a grip on the migration crisis, and vowed to fight pressure from Brussels to take in more refugees."

CoE: Nils Muiznieks: Europe trapped in migration vicious circle (link): "Human rights commissioner Nils Muiznieks fears European countries are drawing themselves into a more and more vicious circle by closing their borders to asylum seekers.Many states are considering or enacting counter-productive policies, such as erecting fences, reducing asylum seeker benefits, seizing their belongings, making asylum seekers pay for staying at reception centres or for time in detention, restricting family reunification, and granting only temporary, unstable forms of status. Many of these measures not only run counter to European human rights standards, they are also harmful to social cohesion and ineffective. Instead of helping these people, European countries are engaging in a race to repel migrants, in violation of the principle of inter-state solidarity and of human rights standards."



Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (27-28.2.16)
NATO Deploys in the Aegean (thepressproject.gr, link)

"The deployment of NATO forces in the Aegean begun today. The Canadian frigate HMCS-Fredericton is sailing close to the island of Lesvos, the German frigate Fgs-Bonn, which is also the tactical chief of the mission, is scheduled to sail to the Aegean....

Presently 11 vessels from the NATO naval force have been assigned for the patrolling of the Aegean as well as several which are acting for Greece.

The operational commander of the assignement is Admiral Mark E.Ferguson (JFC) of the US Navy. "

UNHCR: Daily Report: 26.2.16:

"In the past 48 hours, 1,100 refugees entered the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Entry to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia from Greece remains intermittent. An average of 3,000 people arrived daily to the Greek Islands this week.

Condition of People: In order to prevent overcrowding in Eidomeni, authorities set up several stop overs on the way from Pireus Port to Athens, and from Athens to the Eidomeni border crossing with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. People are sheltered temporarily in motels and sports centres. In addition, the transit centres in Athens (Schisto, Elaionas and Elliniko) as well as Diavata in Thessaloniki have become overcrowded. People remained overnight in open spaces such as Victoria Square in Athens. Overall, it is estimated that between 12,000 and 15,000 refugees and migrants are present across the country."

The Latest: UN chief criticizes Europe's border restrictions (Yahoo/AP, link):

"The United Nations secretary-general is expressing "great concern" at the growing number of border restrictions along the migrant trail through Europe.

Ban Ki-moon's spokesman says the U.N. chief is calling on all countries to keep their borders open and says he is "fully aware of the pressures felt by many European countries."

Friday's statement notes in particular the new restrictions in Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia.

Ban says the restrictions are "not in line" with the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees because there is no determination of individuals' refugee status and protection needs".

Europe/migration: Five-country police agreement exacerbates crisis and puts vulnerable migrants at risk -- Zeid (UN, link):

"GENEVA (25 February 2016) The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad Al Hussein on Thursday expressed serious concern at security measures adopted at a recent meeting of the heads of police of five European countries*, which are already having a negative impact on the human rights of refugees and migrants in southern and central Europe, and are compounding the already exceptionally difficult situation in Greece.

In the wake of the adoption of these measures last week, the treatment of refugees and migrants moving through some of these countries already appears to have changed, with seriously negative implications for their human rights, Zeid said. Latest reports suggest chain deportations are now taking place all the way down the Balkan land route, which includes Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, towards Greece. In addition, hundreds of Afghans were reportedly stranded in abject conditions for over five days on the border between The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia, and many other Afghans have been blocked from entering The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia from Greece, apparently solely on the basis of their nationality."

The Latest: UN chief criticizes Europe's border restrictions (Yahoo/AP, link):

"The United Nations secretary-general is expressing "great concern" at the growing number of border restrictions along the migrant trail through Europe.

Ban Ki-moon's spokesman says the U.N. chief is calling on all countries to keep their borders open and says he is "fully aware of the pressures felt by many European countries."

Friday's statement notes in particular the new restrictions in Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia.

Ban says the restrictions are "not in line" with the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees because there is no determination of individuals' refugee status and protection needs".

Europe/migration: Five-country police agreement exacerbates crisis and puts vulnerable migrants at risk -- Zeid (UN, link):

"GENEVA (25 February 2016) The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad Al Hussein on Thursday expressed serious concern at security measures adopted at a recent meeting of the heads of police of five European countries*, which are already having a negative impact on the human rights of refugees and migrants in southern and central Europe, and are compounding the already exceptionally difficult situation in Greece.

In the wake of the adoption of these measures last week, the treatment of refugees and migrants moving through some of these countries already appears to have changed, with seriously negative implications for their human rights, Zeid said. Latest reports suggest chain deportations are now taking place all the way down the Balkan land route, which includes Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, towards Greece. In addition, hundreds of Afghans were reportedly stranded in abject conditions for over five days on the border between The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia, and many other Afghans have been blocked from entering The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia from Greece, apparently solely on the basis of their nationality.

The EU hotspot approach at Lampedusa (Glenda Garelli and Martina Tazzioli 26 February 2016, Open Democracy, link): "The hotspot works as a preemptive frontier, with the double goal of blocking migrants at Europes southern borders, and simultaneously impeding the highest number possible of refugees from claiming asylum."

Hotspot system as a new device of clandestinisation: view from Sicily (Alessandra Sciurba 25 February 2016, Open Democracy, link): "The hotspot system for migrants remains an experiment, but it entails the implementation at the national level of human-rights-violating policies elaborated at the EU level."

70,000 refugees may be 'trapped' next month, Greece warns (worldbulletin.net/europe, link):

"We estimate that in our country the number of those trapped will be from 50,000-70,000 people next month,' migration minister says... "Today, there are 22,000 refugees and migrants", he added in an interview with Mega Channel tv.

Some 6,500 people were stuck at the Idomeni camp on Greece's northern border with Macedonia on Sunday as Macedonian border officials let only 300 refugees and migrants pass the day before...

He added that this campaign as well as NATO's presence in the Aegean Sea, which is helping to police Greek waters, was expected to reduce arrivals by 70 percent."

News (27-28.2.16)

Austria: Border situation worsens in Greece (The Local.at, link): "More than 5,000 people were trapped at the Idomeni camp on Greece's northern border with Macedonia on Saturday after four Balkan countries announced a daily cap on migrant arrivals. By Saturday, some 5,500 people were stranded at Idomeni, local police said, with another 800 gathered at another provisional camp some 20 kilometres (12 miles) away. Since Thursday night, only 150 people have crossed into Macedonia, officials said, putting the total number of refugees and migrants currently on Greek soil at around 25,000."

Turkey raises anti-smuggling steps but faces uphill struggle (ekathimerini.com, link): " Turkey has its own migration issues. The number of refugees Turkey is now hosting has swelled to 3 million - 2.6 million of them from Syria - so that last year Turkey overtook Pakistan as the country with the largest refugee population in the world..... "There has been a visible decrease in the numbers of migrants crossing illegally," Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus told journalists. But he quickly added: "To reduce the numbers to zero, however, is impossible. No country has the power to do so."... Turkey is also constructing a wall along parts of its 910-kilometer (560-mile) border with Syria, mainly to prevent infiltrations by Islamic State militants."

Albania will not become the new route for migrants, Rama says (ekathimerini.com, link): "Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has said that Albania will not become the new route for migrants headed for western Europe "because we have neither the conditions nor the strength nor the enthusiasm to save the world while others close their borders."":

Refugee Crisis Disunity: A De Facto Solution Takes Shape in the Balkans (Spiegel Online, link): "Angela Merkel is still hoping for a European solution to the refugee crisis. But with patience running out, Austria has joined countries on the Balkan Route to impose Plan B. But with the closure of borders, the situation in Greece is becoming dangerous."

Facebook wants to crack down against hate speech on migrants (BBC, link): "Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg says the social network needs to get better at cracking down on hate speech against migrants."

Germany: Shots fired at refugee building in eastern Germany (DW, link): "First the building was flooded, then stones were thrown at windows. Now bullet holes adorn a building earmarked to house refugees in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, after shots were fired at it."

Double crisis deepens despair in Greeces warehouse of souls (Guardian, link): "Closing of borders by neighbouring states has left more than 25,000 refugees stranded in a country struggling to keep its own economy afloat."



Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (26.2.16)
MEP asks the Commission to clarify the legal position of NGOs and volunteers who give humanitarian assistance to refugees

Jean Lambert MEP (Green/EFA Group) has put down a written question to the European Commission concerning: Legal clarity for NGOs and volunteers providing humanitarian assistance (pdf):

"Particularly over the past year, NGOs and volunteers have been providing crucial assistance to asylum seekers and refugees to fill a void in a coordinated humanitarian response from Member State Governments and the EU.... The Greek Government has responded by setting up a committee to register, classify and co-ordinate the NGOs operating on Lesvos.

Could the Commission clarify the intentions behind its push for the increased coordination of NGOs and volunteers working on the ground as concerns have been raised about the appropriateness of the information required?

Given that current EU law does not provide legal certainly for NGOs and volunteers providing humanitarian assistance to those seeking protection in the EU, will the Commission clarify the legal situation in its upcoming review of Directive 2002/90/EC defining the facilitation of unauthorised entry, transit and residence?"

See also: Council proposals on migrant smuggling would criminalise humanitarian assistance by civil society, local people and volunteers - Greece: NGOs and volunteers have to "register" with the police and be vetted and: NGOs and volunteers helping refugees in Greece to be placed under state control

Excellent article: The NATO pushbacks in the Aegean and international law (link) by Thomas Spijkerboer, Professor of Migration Law:

"On 23 February, NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg stated in the European parliament: When we rescue those people, what we agreed with Turkey at a ministerial level, we agreed that if those people came from Turkey then we can return them to Turkey. Stoltenberg repeated this on 24 February. Is this compatible with international law?....

The most directly applicable case is the 2012 Hirsi Jamaa judgment, in which the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights passed judgment on the Italian pushbacks, which consisted of transferring migrants from vessels onto Italian navy vessels and returning to Libya without any procedure. The Court held that a state exercises de jure jurisdiction over vessels flying its flag, and therefore the migrants were under Italian jurisdiction. It added that Italy could not evade the exercise of jurisdiction by arguing that its activities constitute a search and rescue action just like NATO is doing at present....

The conclusion has to be that the NATO actions are in violation of international law; and that the relevant parts of international law are binding on NATO states because they exercise jurisdiction over migrants. Returning migrants to Turkey as envisioned violates the prohibition of refoulement, also when it happens in the form of search and rescue." [emphasis added]

A summary of the state of affairs: European nations slap new restrictions on migrants (AFP, link): "Brussels (AFP) - European nations have adopted a raft of restrictive measures since the beginning of the year as they seek to stem an influx of asylum seekers."

Greece: 2 refugees hang themselves in central Athens to draw attention to their situation (dailysabah.com/europe, link): "Two refugee men hanged themselves from a tree in central Victoria Square in Athens, an informal staging point for refugees arriving from the Aegean Sea islands, where about 300 people were gathered Thursday. Police said the men, who were rushed to hospital, one unconscious, had tried to draw attention to their predicament."

Mediterranean Migrant, Refugee Arrivals in Europe Top 120,000 (IOM, link): 120.065 arrvials in 2016: 111.099 to Greece, 8,966 to Italy. 418 dead/missing.

Greece-Austria deadlock:

Greek migration minister: Austria will soon recognise its enormous mistake (euractiv, link)

"Austria will soon come to realise that its behaviour during the refugee crisis has been an enormous mistake, Greek Minister of Immigration Policy Ioannis Mouzalas said in an exclusive interview with EurActiv Greece.... Our conclusion was that we need to implement what was decided during the last summit and that five police officers cannot abolish a decision taken by prime ministers."

Greece-Austria spat adds to pressure as EU seeks refugee response (ekathimerini.com, link): "In the next 10 days, we need tangible and clear results on the ground. Otherwise there is a danger, there is a risk that the whole system will completely break down, the EUs migration commissioner said. His warning came as talks between the blocs justice and home affairs ministers in Brussels aimed at putting together a unified response to the crisis descended into acrimony as Austria refused to take back its unilateral measures.

These measures, which effectively trap a growing number of migrants and refugees on Greek territory, prompted Athens to recall its ambassador from Austria, Chryssoula Aliferi."

Netherlands: The expanding list of safe countries of origin (AIDA, link)

"Ghana, India, Mongolia, Jamaica, Senegal and Morocco have been designated as "safe countries of origin" by the Dutch Minister for Immigration, according to a letter addressed to the Parliament on 12 February 2016. The letter clarifies that Morocco and Senegal are designated as safe for all persons except LGBTI individuals, while the same assessment concluded that Egypt cannot be included in the list.

News (26.2.16)

Greece: Reports on the islands by the Greek Council for Refugees (AIDA, link): "The Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) has published two reports of recent field missions to the islands of Lesvos, Rhodes and Kastelorizo."

Ten days to save EU migration system, Commission warns (euractiv, link): The EU has ten days to curb the number of migrants coming to Europe or else the blocs migration system could completely break down, Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said on Thursday (25 February)...7 March is the date of an EU-Turkey summit that will assess the progress of a ¬3 billion deal signed with Ankara in November ..." [7 March is also the day that the NATO operation starts]

Greece temporarily suspends ferries transporting migrants from the islands (ekathimerini.com,link) "Greece has temporarily suspended all ferries transporting migrants and refugees from the islands to ease congestion on the mainland, Merchant Marine Minister Theodoros Dritsas has said. We do not want to create an unmanageable situation on the islands. This is a totally temporary measure, Dritsas told Mega TV on Friday."

EU ministers call for coordinated approach to refugee crisis as 'anarchy' looms (DW, link): "European ministers have met in Brussels to discuss solutions to the ongoing migrant crisis. Some officials have warned that the EU could be on the verge of crumbling if it doesn't get a handle on the refugee crisis."

With No Unified Refugee Strategy, Europeans Fall Back on Old Alliances (NYT, link): "The problem is that the leaders are not always adhering to European rules, possibly not sticking to international law and not acting with the unity envisioned by Mr. Tusk. In some cases, they instead seem to be reverting to historical alliances rather than maintaining the European Unions mantra of solidarity."

Germany: More than 130,000 asylum seekers disappeared in 2015 (The Local.de, link): "More than 130,000 asylum seekers went missing after initially being registered in Germany, new government figures reveal.... Officials admitted in response that 13 percent of people who were registered as asylum seekers in 2015 didnt arrive at the shelter they were assigned to."



Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (25.2.16)
EU: European Commission: Remarks by Commissioner Avramopoulos following the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 25 February 2016 (pdf). The Commissioner said:

"In the next 10 days, we need tangible and clear results on the ground. Otherwise there is a risk that the whole system will completely break down."

He goes on to say, in apparent denial of the humanitarian crisis that existed in the Med and the EU for most of last year: "the pressing situation in our neighbourhood: the route along the Western Balkans. The situation is very critical. The possibility of a humanitarian crisis is very real and very near."

And he finishes by yet again urging EU Member States to meet their commitments so that the EU can: "return back to the normal situation as soon as possible" - when the EU has never been more divided.

EU: Council of the European Union: Redrafted EU border guard proposal drops reference to rescue of refugees: see: European Border and Coast Guard: Re-draft (LIMITE doc no: 6319-16, pdf):

The new Article 14.5 says:

"The objectives of a joint operation or rapid border intervention may be achieved as part of a multipurpose operation which may involve coast guard functions including (the rescue of persons in) distress at sea (or other coast guard functions), cross border crime prevention including the fight against migrant smuggling or trafficking in human beings, (drug trafficking control operations), and migration management including identification, registration, debriefing and return" [added in bold, deletions underline in brackets]

"RESCUING" OR RETURNING REFUGEES? NATO overcomes Greek-Turkish tensions to agree Aegean mission (ekathimerini.com, link): "NATO allies have agreed to a plan for their ships in the Aegean Sea to help Turkey and Greece counter criminal networks smuggling refugees into Europe, NATO's chief said on Thursday, overcoming territorial sensitivities between Greece and Turkey....

Greek and Turkish forces will not operate in each other's territorial waters and airspace, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement...

Stoltenberg said other NATO vessels will be able to sail in the territorial waters of Greece and Turkey.... Germany hopes that unlike the EU's mission off the Italian coast, which brings rescued migrants to Europe's shores, NATO will return migrants to Turkey even if they are picked up in Greek waters, effectively sealing the border. In case of rescue of persons coming via Turkey, they will be taken back to Turkey, Stoltenberg said."

And: NATO agrees on guidelines for refugee mission in Aegean Sea (DW, link): NATO allies have settled on a maritime plan to help tackle crime rings smuggling refugees into Europe. NATO has also said they will return all rescued refugees to Turkey, a move which has been strongly criticized...."In case of rescue of persons coming via Turkey, they will be taken back to Turkey," Stoltenberg said without mentioning the particulars if refugees are rescued in Greek waters.... Human rights organizations and the German opposition have criticized NATO involvement in the refugee crisis. Left Party MP Annette Groth said the planned NATO "deportations" back to Turkey "break international law.... The NATO mission is set to start on March 7." Also see the "Sea-watch" video.

EU: Council of the European Union: Justice and Home Affairs Council, 25 February 2015: Press release (pdf) "B" Points Agenda (for discussion,pdf):

Documents under discussion: EU BORDER GUARD AGENCY: Council of the European Union: Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Regulation (EC) No 2007/2004, Regulation (EC) No 863/2007 and Council Decision 2005/267/EC - State of play (LIMITE doc no: 6309-16, pdf) and see: Re-draft (LIMITE doc no: 6319-16, pdf)

Adopted version of Council doc no:6310-REV-1-16 (pdf) - previous doocument: Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation No 562/2006 (EC) as regards the reinforcement of checks against relevant databases at external borders (LIMITE doc on: 6310-16, pdf):

"It is noted that the changes vis-à-vis the Commission proposal in the attached text are demonstrated in underline. The text in relation to a possible derogation regarding air borders is put between square brackets for further consideration...

The compromise text set out in the Annex was at the JHA Counsellors meeting acceptable to a sufficient majority of delegations, with the exception of the possible derogation from systematic checks at air borders. Article 7(2d) of the text provides for such a derogation for air borders for a maximum period of three years. Several delegations were of the view that there should be no derogation possible for air borders, and that in any case three years was too long a period. Several other delegations continued to favour this derogation. The Presidency invites Coreper/Council to examine this last outstanding question with a view to the adoption of a general approach on the proposal at the February 2016 JHA Council." [emphasis added]

See previous docunments: LIMITE doc no: 6181-16 (pdf) and LIMITE doc no: 5808-16 (pdf) also Commission Proposal (pdf)

Greece/Balkans: Thousands stranded as new arbitrary border restrictions expose refugees to violence (MSF, link)

"On Tuesday MSF teams witnessed Greek police in Polykastro kicking Afghan refugees, including women and children, for refusing to board a bus that would forcibly take them back to Athens....

Thousands of men, women and children are stranded between Greece and the Balkans after the sudden imposition of new border restrictions for Afghan refugees on the Western Balkans route this week. Refugees are being provided with no information, little-to-no humanitarian assistance and are at risk of violence and abuse.

We have denounced the humanitarian consequences of this domino effect time and again, but European governments on this route continue to invent new and arbitrary criteria, with the sole goal of reducing the flow of people at any cost, and in complete disregard of humanitarian needs says Aurelie Ponthieu, MSFs humanitarian advisor on displacement. The failure of European governments to find collective and humane answers is only producing chaos, arbitrariness and discrimination. "

A Drop in the Ocean By Simon Book and Regina Krieger (global.handelsblatt.com, link): "The European Union is banking on so-called hotspots: Reception centers for asylum seekers located on the islands along its external borders. But are these camps the solution to the refugee crisis? A visit to Lesbos and Lampedusa."

News (25.2.16)

Merkel Increasingly Isolated on Refugees (global.handelsblatt.com, link): "Germanys efforts for an E.U.-wide refugee solution are less popular than ever: Austria and many Balkan states have cut a new deal to keep migrants out, and Hungary is planning a referendum on the refugee question."

Greece-EU: Tsipras threatens to block future agreements if migrant burden is not shared (euractiv, link): "Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras urged European Union countries to honour the blocs decisions on sharing the burden of the migrant crisis, saying that if they did not, Athens would block future agreements." and Greek PM threatens to block EU decisions (euobserver, link)

Austria criticises Germany on migrants, piles 'pressure' on EU (euobserver, link): "Austria has said Germany should stop sending mixed messages on migration at a meeting with Western Balkan states in Vienna on Wednesday (24 February). "Germany has to decide what signals Germany wants to send," Austrian interior minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner told press after talks with her counterparts from Western Balkan countries, where most migrants cross on their way from Greece to Germany.

"Currently they [Germany] are sending the following signals: that they are allowing Greece to agree to the open-door policy, and on the other hand they are demanding that Austria stop all those who want to travel to Germany," she said, according to the Reuters news agency. "One must choose one of those strategies," " she said."

German parliament approves stricter asylum regulations (DW, link): "A set of new regulations pertaining to asylum in Germany has been passed by parliament. Several aspects of the package have been strongly criticized by opposition parties "

Germany sends Afghan refugees home in effort to deter new arrivals (DW, link): "Germany's interior minister has confirmed that the country has flown refugees back to Afghanistan. The move comes as Berlin seeks to stem the flow of asylum seekers into the country.... Berlin has also put pressure on other African countries, including Benin, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, Nigeria and Sudan, to accept their nationals whose claims for asylum Germany rejects.Meanwhile, refugee organizations have condemned the move to deport refugees back to their homelands, noting the often fragile security situations in these countries.." "



Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (24.2.16)
EU BORDER GUARD AGENCY: Council of the European Union: Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Regulation (EC) No 2007/2004, Regulation (EC) No 863/2007 and Council Decision 2005/267/EC - State of play (LIMITE doc no: 6309-16, pdf):

and see: As above: Re-draft (LIMITE doc no: 6319-16, pdf)

New provsion include power of Commission to define details of hotspots:

"The Commission shall, in cooperation with the host Member State, the Agency and the other relevant Union Agencies and in particular the European Asylum Support Office and Europol, establish the modalities of cooperation at the hotspot area, including on the coordination of the activities of the migration management support teams."

and Member States who do not cooperate with Frontex face Schengen explusion:

"If the Member State concerned does not comply with the Council decision and does not cooperate with the Agency as provided for under paragraph 6, the Council may, as a last resort and as a measure to protect the common interests within the area without internal border control, recommend that one or more Member States decide to reintroduce border control at all or specific parts of their internal borders for a period of up to six months. That period may be prolonged, no more than three times, for a further period of up to six months if the absence of cooperation persists."

Amnesty International: EU and member states must work to end unprecedented assault on human rights at home and abroad (link)

"The European Union (EU) must act now to prevent a wholesale assault on human rights and basic freedoms both within its borders and across the globe, said Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment on human rights around the world.

Amnesty Internationals Annual Report 2015-2016 warns of an insidious and creeping global trend undermining human rights as European and world governments deliberately underfund or neglect institutions set up to protect them, break or ignore international law and target and attack activists, lawyers and others who work to defend peoples basic freedoms."

European Court of Human Rights: Khlaifia and Others v. Italy (application no. 16483/12) (pdf):

"The following case has been referred to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights. Khlaifia and Others v. Italy (application no. 16483/12): which concerns the detention in a reception centre on Lampedusa and subsequently on ships moored in Palermo harbour, as well as the return to Tunisia, of clandestine migrants who had landed on the Italian coast in 2011 during the events linked to the Arab Spring......

In its Chamber judgment of 1 September 2015, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 5 §§ 1, 2 and 4 of the Convention, finding that the applicants had been deprived of their liberty without a sufficient legal basis, that they had not been duly informed of the reasons for the measure, and that they had been unable to challenge it."

EUNAVFOR MED-Six Month Report: No Indication of Refugee Protection Plan for EU Operations within Libyan Territorial Waters and No Reports of Human Trafficking (Migrants at Sea, link):

"No Discussion of Refugee Protection Plan: First, the Report does not contain information regarding what the EU military force intends to do with migrants who are intercepted or rescued by EU vessels if and when EUNAVFOR MED patrols begin to operate within Libyan territorial waters....

No Reports of Human Trafficking: The second perhaps less significant piece of information that jumped out at me as I read the Report was the lack of any suggestion that EUNAVFOR MED patrols have discovered evidence of human trafficking. The Report makes multiple references to trafficking, but always in conjunction with human smuggling, eg, smuggler and traffickers business model, smuggler and trafficker vessels. The use of the trafficking term seems to be a continuation of the use of imprecise terminology (and possible ongoing confusion over the differences between human trafficking and smuggling as well?). But the Reports Smugglers Business Model section [pp 6-8] is clearly only discussing acts of smuggling."

Nato to take migrants back to Turkey, if rescued (euobserver, link):

"Nato ships will take anybody they rescue in the Aegean Sea back to Turkey instead of Greece, the head of the military alliance has said.

When we rescue those people, what we agreed with Turkey at a ministerial level, we agreed that if those people came from Turkey then we can return them to Turkey, Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato secretary general, told the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday (23 February)."

and see: The Latest: NATO: rescued migrants can be returned to Turkey (leaderherald.com, link): "NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Turkey and its allies have agreed that "if the people were rescued by NATO, if they come from Turkey, we can return them to Turkey."

UNHCR Survey finds Afghan and Syrian refugees arriving to Greece are fleeing conflict and violence (link): "A UNHCR survey found that some 94% of Syrians arriving in Greece in January made the perilous journey by sea to escape conflict and violence in Syria. Similarly, 71% of the Afghans surveyed cited conflict and violence as the main reason they left their country." and EU, UN criticize Balkan police crackdown on Afghan migrants (ekathimerini.com, link): "The European Union and United Nations on Tuesday criticized new police restrictions imposed on those traveling along the main migrant route through the Balkans, where hundreds of Afghans have been blocked from crossing into Macedonia."

UNHCR: In 2016: 110,257 arrivals: 101.906 to Greece, 7,893 to Italy. 406 dead/missing. And UNHCR reports:

"According to media sources, Greek authorities are taking diplomatic action to persuade their counterparts in the former Yugoslav Republic of
Macedonia, to allow entry to people of Afghan nationality. Greek authorities state that 5,000 people are present at the border crossing and
3,000 people are being temporarily accommodated in Athens. Authorities fear that the limits imposed at the Austrian borders will trigger similar action
across other countries along the transit route."

See also: Refugee arrivals in Greece exceed 100,000 in less than two months (Guardian. link): "Figure was not reached until end of June last year, and rate of arrivals this year expected to climb further as weather improves."

Thousands of Afghans stranded in Greece, Austria calls Balkan mini-summit (euractiv, link): "Thousands of refugees were left stranded in Greece yesterday (22 February) after Macedonia abruptly closed it border to Afghans, creating a fresh bottleneck as European countries scramble to respond to the continents worst refugee crisis since World War II..... " and see: Vienna accused of moving to isolate Athens (New Europe, link): "Austrias diplomatic initiative appears to be against the spirit of the October 25, 2015 agreement with Western Balkan leaders, to which Greece was a party."

And: Austria rejects Balkans migrants conference criticism (The Local.at, link): "Austria has rejected criticism from Greece that Athens has not been invited to a conference in Vienna on Wednesday among countries along the west Balkans route for migrants towards northern Europe."

News (24.2.16)

EU:Joint Statement by Dutch Minister for Migration Klaas Dijkhoff and European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos (pdf): "We understand the pressure the different countries concerned are facing. We are concerned about the developments along the Balkan route and the humanitarian crisis that might unfold in certain countries especially in Greece."

Why deportations are hard to do (IRIN, link): "As numbers of new arrivals remain stubbornly high, there is increasingly tough talk from several European countries about ramping up deportations of failed asylum seekers."

Italian navy rescues 700 migrants near Libyan coast (Guardian, link): "Four bodies also retrieved in operation undertaken by three boats"

Germany: Refugees, volunteers and authorities in Bautzen fight bad press (DW, link): "Three days after a planned refugee home was set on fire in Bautzen, refugees, helpers, and local authorities have no choice but to keep going. Ben Knight reports from the demonized German state of Saxony."



Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (23.2.16)
WHERE IS THE EU GOING?

Greek police start removing migrants from FYROM border (ekathimerini.com, link): "Greek police started removing migrants from Greece's border with Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on Tuesday after additional passage restrictions imposed by FYROM authorities left hundreds of them stranded, sources said. The migrants had squatted on rail lines in the Idomeni area on Monday after attempting to push through the border to FYROM, angry at delays and additional restrictions in crossing.

Greek police and empty buses had entered the area before dawn, a Reuters witness said. In one area seen from FYROM's side of the border, about 600 people had been surrounded by Greek police, the witness said. There were an estimated 1,200 people at Idomeni, in their vast majority Afghans or individuals without proper travel documents." [emphasise added] and see:

Greece: Number of refugees trapped at border, Piraeus builds up (ekathimerini.com, link):"Thousands of refugees and migrants gathered at Greeces border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on Monday, heightening concern that they will become trapped over the coming days.

Some 4,000 people were estimated to have congregated at the Idomeni border crossing after FYROM refused to allow any Afghans at all or Iraqis and Syrians who did not have passports to cross from Greece. Athens said it had launched diplomatic efforts to convince Skopje to allow the Afghans, who make up around a third of arrivals, through. But the FYROM government said its decision was triggered by actions to its north." [emphasis added]

Greece: Tsipras voices 'displeasure' to EU over Balkans border bottleneck (ekathimerini.com, link):"Athens has expressed its "displeasure" to the EU over tougher border controls by Balkan countries that have left thousands of migrants stranded in Greece, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' office said Tuesday.

In a phone call with his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, Tsipras had also complained about being left out of a planned conference in Vienna on Wednesday involving countries along the migrant route through the western Balkans. "Decisions concerning refugee flows must be taken collectively without exclusions," Tsipras told Rutte according to the statement."

EU: Council of the European Union: Justice and Home Affairs Council, 25 February 2015: Background Note (pdf):

"The Council will aim to reach a general approach on the proposed regulation to reinforce checks against relevant databases at external borders. This regulation seeks to improve security inside the EU by making the checks on EU citizens against all relevant databases (which are already possible) mandatory."

See: Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation No 562/2006 (EC) as regards the reinforcement of checks against relevant databases at external borders (LIMITE doc no: 6181-16, pdf) and previous document: LIMITE no: 5808-16 (pdf) and Commission Proposal (pdf)

News (23.2.16)

Schengen in crisis as Belgium reintroduces border controls (euractiv, link): "Border controls continue to be tightened across the EU as member states scramble to react to a refugee crisis that continues to escalate. Belgium today (23 February) said it had temporarily reintroduced border controls with France to halt the arrival of migrants from the Calais Jungle camp, in a new blow to the EUs passport-free travel area."

Hungarys border fences proving ineffective (euractiv, link): "In the last few days, refugees have started arriving in Hungary in increased numbers again, suggesting that Viktor Orbáns enthusiastic pursuit of a sealing-off policy is not paying off."

Nigerians arrive in Italy via Libya, says Frontex (euractiv, link): "Frontex, the EU border management agency, said some 5,600 refugees, mostly Nigerians, arrived in Italy last month by boat, after crossing the Mediterranean. Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán was quoted as saying that 50 million of Nigerians could arrive in Italy via Libya."

EU rules prevent sharing of refugee fingerprints (euractiv, link): "According to EU rules, only the fingerprints of migrants who apply for asylum are shared among the member countries, which basically means that privacy concerns dont allow the use of the vast majority of migrants fingerprints taken."

Greece: Kammenos says NATO must deploy task force, says Turkey undermining it (ekathimerini.com, link): ""I sent a letter to the Secretary-General of NATO today asking him to implement the unanimous agreement," Defense Minister Panos Kammenos told journalists. "In this letter I am asking that the NATO force be moved east of the Greek islands," he said. Turkey, he said, had raised fresh demands for the task force to be deployed. "Turkey is trying to blow [the agreement] apart," he said. [Reuters]"



Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
(22.2.16)
Austrian restrictions trigger domino effect across Balkan refugee route (EurActiv, link): "Afghan asylum seekers seeking to travel through the Balkans to northern Europe were barred from entering Macedonia yesterday (21 February), after Austria introduced a similar restriction, creating a domino effect along the so-called Balkan migrant route.

We were warned this morning that Macedonian authorities would no longer let Afghans pass, a Greek police official told AFP, adding that Macedonia justified its move by claiming that Serbia had made a similar decision.

The development came after Austria on Friday (19 February) introduced a daily limit on refugees entering and registering in the country, triggering EU fears of a domino effect along the so-called Balkan migrant route.

Report from ECRE: Over 200 refugees, including SIA, rejected on the Slovenian border (ECRE, link): "In the early hours of Wednesday 17 February, 217 asylum seekers were returned from Slovenia, through Croatia and finally to Serbia. The group, as stated by UNHCR Serbia, includes a significant number of refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria (SIA), were rejected on the Slovenian border after failing the nationality test."

And: Austria plans Western Balkan meeting on migrant caps (EUobserver, link): "Austria is asking Western Balkan nations and Bulgaria to meet to discuss the migrant crisis, ahead of a gathering of EU interior ministers in Brussels."

There are already agreements between the EU and Western Balkans countries on a common approach to the refugee crisis. The most recent update on implementing the agreements was issued by the European Commission on 10 February. See: Follow up to Western Balkans Leaders' Meeting - State of Play report (pdf)

EU: Europol launches European Migrant Smuggling Centre

"Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, will launch today Europol's new European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC) in The Hague. The EMSC, as envisioned in the European Agenda on Migration in May 2015 and called for by the Council of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers in November 2015, will proactively support EU Member States in dismantling criminal networks involved in organised migrant smuggling. The Centre will focus on areas with high levels of criminal activity, and will build a better capability across the European Union to fight people smuggling networks. Ahead of the launch, Commissioner Avramopoulos said: "The fight against migrant smuggling is a key priority for the European Union in addressing the refugee crisis. In order to step up and coordinate efforts across Member States, the European Commission announced the creation of a European Migrant Smuggling Centre within Europol in its European Agenda on Migration. The launch of this Centre will reinforce cooperation with Member States, international organisations, national stakeholders and European agencies, with a responsibility to fight migrant smuggling." The EMSC will help implement the EU's Action Plan against migrant smuggling presented in May 2015. By the end of 2016, the Commission will present proposals to improve the existing EU legal framework to tackle migrant smuggling." Source: European Commission - Daily News 22/02/2016 (link)

And see: Europol launches the European Migrant Smuggling Centre (press release, pdf): "In March 2015 Europol launched the Joint Operational Team Mare (JOT MARE). JOT MARE, hosted at Europols headquarters, is a specialised team of experts whose aim is to combat people smuggling via the Mediterranean and their subsequent secondary movements to destination countries. The strengthening of JOT Mare, making it an essential part of the new EMSC, and the upgrading of all of Europol activities in this field, underpin the creation of the new European Migrant Smuggling Centre. It also builds on Europols work over the last ten years or more in combating organised migrant smuggling in Europe, during which almost 40,000 suspected smugglers have been identified and 1,551 cross-border investigations have been supported in 2015 alone."

Number of migrants arriving in Greece down 40% in January (Frontex, link): "The number of migrants arriving in Greece in January fell to 68 000, down nearly 40% in comparison with December 2015, due in large part to poor weather conditions around the Aegean islands.

The rough seas also led to a significant increase in fatalities in the waters between Turkey and Greece.

Despite the drop in migrant arrivals from the previous month, the figure for January 2016 was 38 times higher than the number recorded in January 2015. Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis continued to account for the largest share of the migrants detected in Greece."

News (22.2.16)

EU: Enhancing return monitoring capacities in EU Member States (EU Fundamental Rights Agency, link): "FRA is stepping up its efforts to assist Member States in monitoring forced returns by air by hosting a 1-week training course from 22-26 February.

The course will guide monitors step-by-step through the phases of forced returns by air. Case studies, role plays and simulation exercises will aid monitors in analysing and reflecting about the fundamental rights dimension of their work. The course covers: principles such as proportionality and necessity; coercive measures; early warning indicators for monitors; access to information of returnees; treatment of and communication with returnees; vulnerable people; monitoring and reporting."

FRANCE: Migrants: towards Calais clearance, 'humanitarian operation' (ANSAmed, link): "What will take place by Wednesday morning in the southern portion of the so-called Calais migrant 'Jungle' will be a ''humanitarian' clearance: said French Minister of the Interior, Bernard Cazeneuve, interviewed by La Voix du Nord. On Friday several associations and Ngos lodged a plea at the Lille Tribunal to postpone the clearance."

French courts postpone Calais Jungle eviction (New Europe, link): "The French government has suspended plans to evict thousands of refugees living in the ramshackle Jungle camp on the outskirts of Calais. This is the vicinity of Calais, France, where migrants live while they attempt to enter the United Kingdom.

As reported by The Independent, the eviction was postponed by French courts after a census carried out by the charity Help Refugees discovered many more refugees were living in the area than authorities had initially calculated.

The charity said there were 3,455 people living in the southern stretch of the Jungle scheduled to be demolished. It is more than three times Frances estimates of between 800 and 1,000. That figure includes 445 children, of whom 315 were living without their parents that is not to say they are orphans. The youngest child found was a 10-year-old boy from Afghanistan."

GREECE: Despite Aegean Rescuers' Best Efforts, Not All Migrants Are Saved (NPR, link): "It's just before midnight on a February night when the crew of the Responder gets word from the Greek coast guard that a boat with migrants aboard is nearby. It's in trouble somewhere in Greek territorial waters in the Aegean Sea.

"There's a light, a flash," says Eugenio Miuccio, a 38-year-old Italian doctor, pointing to a flicker in the pitch-black sea. He and an Italian nurse, 27-year-old Roberto Pantaleo, pull on red life jackets as the ship heads toward the light."

HUNGARY-EU: Spokesperson: Hungary did not sign on to quota deal (Budapest Business Journal, link): "Despite what Hungarian opposition parties say, Hungarys Prime Minister Viktor Orbán did not sign a measure supporting the quota system on Friday at a European Union summit, government spokesperson Zoltán Kovács told Hungarian news agency MTI yesterday."

Italy wants to revise the Dublin regulation (New Europe, link): "Italian Minister of Internal Affairs Angelino Alfano said that the Dublin Regulation should be revised. He emphasized that at present, the document does not reflect reality and called the requirement of asking for asylum in migrants country of entrance a complete absurdity.

At the sidelines of the European People Partys summit in Brussels, Alfano said that both Italy and Greece can no longer pay the price for the constant flow of refugeess across Europe. If the situation is not changed, Europe will face even greater problems, added the minister."

Portugal wants more refugees to help revive dwindling population (EurActiv, link): "Traditionally a country of emigration, Portugal has offered to take up to 10,000 migrants from countries struggling to cope with the influx, to help maintain its own population.

Portugals Socialist premier, Antonio Costa, last week sent letters to Austria, Greece, Italy and Sweden countries that have seen refugees arrive in large numbers offering to welcome up to 5,800 more refugees in addition to the 4,500 they already agreed to take as part of the European Unions refugee quota system.

Costa recently told Brussels that Portugal should set an example, adding that he was against a Europe that closes its borders to block access to refugees."

TURKEY: Injured Syrians fleeing Aleppo onslaught among thousands denied entry to Turkey (Amnesty International, link): "The Turkish authorities have denied entry to injured Syrian civilians in need of immediate medical care, after fleeing the intense bombardment of the northern Aleppo countryside in the past two weeks, said Amnesty International from the Öncüpinar/Bab al-Salam border crossing.

The organization has also documented how Turkish security forces have shot and injured civilians, including children, who out of desperation have attempted to cross the border unofficially with the help of smugglers."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (20-21.2.16)

Greece: NGOs and volunteers helping refugees in Greece to be placed under state control

- only in the Soviet Union and under the STASI in East Germany were NGOs expected to hand over lists and personal details of all their members/volunteers
-
"In particular there should be no attempts by public authorities to make NGOs effectively agencies working under their control.."
(Council of Europe)

The General Secretariat of Aegean and Island Coordinating Committee have finally produced two forms that all NGOs working on the Greek islands to help refugees will have to complete and register with the police in order to carry on their work. NGOs and volunteers have been helping arriving refugees for more than a year - when for most of the time the EU and international agencies were conspicuously absent.

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments:

"There is no better example of the crucial role of independent NGOs and volunteers than in the Greek islands over the last year and for long before that.

Now the Greek state at the behest of the EU is seeking to get all volunteers to "register" with the police and hand over lots of personal data including previous "activities" - they are being asked to spy on themselves. And NGOs are being asked register their organisations and hand over personal details of all their volunteers/members to the police.

Demands that NGOs hand over personal details of all their members to the state has no place in a democracy. The exceptional measures being taken in Greece may become the norm across the EU if not challenged now by NGOs and civil society."

The Registration forms: NGO: "Organisation Profile" form (pdf) and the volunteer "Personal Profile" form (pdf)

UN: Migrant-bashing has dangerously become the norm in Europe UN rights expert (link):

"a United Nations expert on the human rights of migrants warned today that it has become impossible in Europe to have a meaningful discussion about migrant's rights, diversity, and integration. Europe has always been a strong advocate of human rights in Europe and elsewhere, said François Crépeau, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, in a statement.

In its struggle to maintain control of its borders however, it is being tested on its adherence to human rights. Through slowly stripping away the rights of asylum-seekers and migrants, Europe is creating a scary new 'normal,' he added." [emphasis added]

EU and Turkey to hold refugee summit in March (euractiv, link):

"The EU and Turkey will meet in March to push forward a deal to stem the migration crisis, European Council President Donald Tusk said yesterday (18 February).

We agreed that our joint action plan with Turkey remains a priority and we must do all we can to succeed, Tusk told a press conference after the first day of a two-day European Union summit in Brussels. This is why we have the intention to organise a special meeting with Turkey in the beginning of March, Tusk said without elaborating."

Germany:Arsonists set planned refugee shelter on fire in Germany, onlookers cheer at burning building (dailysabah.com/europe, link):

"former hotel, which was being modified to be used as an accommodation for refugees, caught fire on Saturday night in the eastern German town of Bautzen in Saxony state. Authorities who are currently investigating the cause of the fire believe that the blaze was started deliberately.

Luckily, no one was hurt during the fire, German media reported. Reportedly the work of the fire brigade was massively hindered by a few, mostly boozed, onlookers. The officials said that they had to expel three people from the scene of the fire because of this reason. "Some people reacted to the arson with derogatory comments and undisguised joy," police reportedly said in a statement." and see:

German police chief admits officials failed to control anti-refugee mob (dailysabah.com/europe, link):

"The chief of police in the German city of Chemnitz has admitted that officers struggled to gain control when an angry mob attempted to block refugees from getting off a bus in a nearby town. Up to 100 anti-migrant protesters gathered in front of accommodation for asylum seekers in Clausnitz, situated near the Czech border, in an attempt to blockade new arrivals on Thursday evening.

There has been strong criticism of the police response, after police orders for the crowd to clear off were reportedly met with jeers and laughter."

UNHCR: With growing numbers of child deaths at sea, UN agencies call for enhancing safety for refugees and migrants (link):

"Joint UNHCR, UNICEF, IOM Press Release

GENEVA, 16 February 2016 An average of two children have drowned every day since September 2015 as their families try to cross the eastern Mediterranean, and the number of child deaths is growing said IOM, UNHCR, and UNICEF. The agencies are calling for enhancing the safety of those escaping conflict and despair.

Since last September, when the tragic death of toddler Aylan Kurdi captured the world's attention, more than 340 children, many of them babies and toddlers, have drowned in the eastern Mediterranean. The total number of children who have died may be even greater, the agencies say, their bodies lost at sea."

News (20-21-2-16)

Greece: Sharp rise of refugees landing on Greek islands during the Brussels summit  (apokoronasnews.gr, link): "Over 11,000 refugees have arrived at Greek islands in the last three days while government officials were apparently preoccupied with the EU summit in Brussel..."

Greece: Borders will not close, insists Tsipras after talks (ekathimerini.com, link): "There are and will be no closed borders, Tsipras told Parliament, after all 28 EU leaders agreed to hold a separate summit to discuss the refugee crisis with Turkey on March 6. The Greek prime minister said that his government had taken on the populist, xenophobic and racist forces in Europe and would continue to do so.... The NATO rapid reaction force, known as the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2), is due to begin its patrols under the leadership of German Rear Admiral Jorg Klein in the next few days."

Could Germany, like Austria, close borders to refugees? (DW, link): "Soon only 80 people a day will be able to apply for asylum at the border and a maximum of 3,200 refugees a day will be allowed to transit to neighboring countries such as Germany. The changes will not make a difference in Germany; 3,200 people a day amount to a million per year, which is approximately the estimated number entering the country now. According to the European Commission, however, Austria's cap on asylum applications violates international law and does not comply with the European Convention on Human Rights."

Greece: Armed forces chief hits back at Golden Dawn (ekathimerini.com, link):: "The head of Greeces armed forces on Friday spoke out against Golden Dawn after its MPs blasted the military for helping to build so-called hot spots for refugees. The men and women of our countrys armed forces are proud of the mission they have been assigned by the Greek people, said the chief of the National Defense General Staff (GEETHA), Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis."

Germany: Prominent intellectuals back Merkel's refugee policy (DW, link): "Eminent figures from inside and outside Germany have written an open letter supporting Chancellor Angela Merkel's refugee policy. The open letter ran with the headline, "We can do it," echoing Merkel's oft-used phrase."

No breakthrough on refugees in Brussels talks (ekathimerini.com, link): "No breakthrough was achieved Friday as European Union leaders met in Brussels to discuss the migration issue while data showed more than 11,000 people had crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey in a three-day period this week. The rift caused by the influx into the 28-member EU was brutally exposed in the Belgian capital as a decision by Austria to introduce a daily cap on asylum seekers "

Danish PM: EU cant handle another year of refugee crisis (The Local.dk,link): "As EU leaders met in Brussels to negotiate British Prime Minister David Camerons reforms package, Lars Løkke Rasmussen told reporters that Europe has reached its breaking point in the ongoing refugee crisis."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (19.2.16)

Nato enters the migration control business (euobserver, link):

"The Nato operation announced on 11 February may perhaps serve this purpose, but raises the question of whether stemming the flow will, in effect, mean collective expulsions that deny the right to seek asylum.

Even as Nato ships steam into the Aegean Sea, the terms of reference of the operation remain clouded. Nato's Supreme Allied Commander, US airforce general Philip Breedlove, has said he has only now been tasked to go back and define the mission....

Nato warships are not limited to Greek waters and would be able to return boat people to Turkey, itself a member of Nato, if Turkey allows it."

European Council Summit: European Council Conclusions on migration (18 February 2016) (pdf)

UNHCR: 4,611 people arrived on the Greek islands on 17 February which was a significant increase and represents the highest arrival rate since 9 January. UNHCR expects this trend to continue over the coming days, whilst similar weather conditions prevail" (18.2.16)

Since 1 January 2016: there have been 90,280 arrivals in the EU:83,233 in Greece, 6,589 in Italy. 403 dead/missing (UNHCR).

Why warships cant solve the refugee crisis (IRIN, link):

"As NATO deploys warships to the Aegean, anthropologist and author of Illegality, Inc. Ruben Andersson, of the London School of Economics, offers some alternatives to Europes failed policy of ever-increasing border security.,,,,

Another week, another project scrawled on the back of a napkin to try to solve the refugee crisis. This time its send in the warships."

Belgium: Bruges police to stop marking migrants with ink (expatica.com/be, link)::

"Bruges police have halted the practice of marking migrants with marker ink when they are detained in the Bruges area along the coast.

The move came after the far left PVDA party brought the practice to public knowledge. Bruges police, though, say that they didn't need the PVDA email to realise that using a marker on human skin wasn't such a good idea.

In future Bruges police will offer refugees a wristband very similar to the ones used by tourists on all-in package holidays."

And see: Belgium police mark refugees with indelible ink (PRESSTV, link)

Wary on Turkey, EU prepares for refugee crisis in Greece (ekathimerini.com, link):"The European Union hopes Turkey will prevent as many migrants reaching Greece as last year but is readying "contingency" plans to shelter large numbers who may arrive but can no longer trek north toward Germany.

Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told Reuters on Thursday that it was unclear how far Turkey could reduce numbers once the weather improves and, with efforts under way to prevent a repeat of last summers chaotic treks through the Balkans, the EU was working with Athens to shelter refugees in Greece."

and see:Closing borders would cause a major crisis in Europe, experts warn (dailysabah.com, link): "Several countries keep imposing more restrictive border policies as the EU struggles with divisions over the migrant crisis, but different NGOs, experts and politicians warn that these are temporary solutions and may cause more problems... "A European fortress approach, with closed borders, will only serve to dilute EU laws and values and send an appalling signal to the rest of the world regarding our commitment to upholding international refugee law," said Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland. Egeland said the problem is now a political crisis that occurred because of "the lack of cooperation and solidarity between European countries.""

News (19.2.16)

Tsipras, Merkel, Hollande agree on open borders until March 6 (ekathimerini.com, link) and Greece threatens to veto Britain-EU deal if states close borders to refugees (Guardian, link): "Europes negotiations about the UKs membership and about the refugee crisis become entangled at Brussels summit"

Image featuring refugees ordeal in Europe wins top prize (PRESSTV,link): "A picture depicting the desperate situation of refugees struggling to pass through Europes now sealed borders in the hope of a more secure life has won the prestigious World Press Photo Award for 2015. Snapped by Australian freelance photographer Warren Richardson, the black and white image titled Hope for a New Life shows a baby being passed by a refugee to another underneath a razor-wire fence on the Hungary-Serbia border."

Hungary ready to build fence on border with Romania (New Europe, link): "The chief of staff of Hungarys Prime Minister Viktor Orban has announced his country is ready to build a fence on its border with Romania to keep out migrants and there is a good chance that this cannot be avoided. We are ready to erect a technical barrier on the Romanian border as well& today there is significant chance that this cannot be avoided, Janos Lazar told a news conference on February 18."

EU asks tech firms to pitch refugee-tracking systems (Guardian, link): "Border agency Frontex has asked for designs for smartphone apps and databases to track and manage refugees arriving in Europe."

EU-Turkey Cooperation: First meeting of the Steering Committee of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey (pdf): "The first Steering Committee of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey met in Brussels yesterday. It was chaired by the European Commission and counted on the participation of all EU Member States and Turkey.
The first Steering Committee meeting of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey was held in Brussels on 17 February, chaired by the Commission. The first projects to provide humanitarian aid and support access to education of refugee children in Turkey will shortly be presented for approval by the appropriate committees."

EU and Turkey to hold refugee summit in March (euractiv, link): "The EU and Turkey will meet in March to push forward a deal to stem the migration crisis, European Council President Donald Tusk said... "

Tsipras decries lack of EU solidarity on refugees (.ekathimerini.com, link): "Following the hints earlier this week by the Visegrad Four (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) that they would tighten border controls, Austria indicated it would limit the number of asylum applications that it accepts to 80 a day. This prompted Tsipras to hit out at the lack of solidarity within the EU in its response to the crisis. Europe cannot be rules for some and a la carte for others, he said before the summit."

Austrian cap on asylum-seekers infuriates Commission (euractiv, link): "Austria enraged the European Commission yesterday (18 February) by insisting on capping the number of refugees it takes in. But Chancellor Werner Faymann said he also heard a lot of understanding during the summit dinner.... In a clear show of exasperation at the Austrian move, announced unilaterally on the eve of the summit, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: National solos are not to be recommended. Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos sent the complaint in a letter to Austrias Interior Minister, the increasingly controversial Johanna Mikl-Leitner."

Zeman: Migrant crisis not over, EU must start action (Prague Daily Monitor, link): "The V4, comprised of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, is opposed to the refugee relocation quotas and calls for a reserve border to be established along the borders of Bulgaria and Macedonia in case Turkey failed to stem the inflow of migrants to Europe and Greece failed to protect the Schengen border effectively."

Star film director: Im ashamed to be Danish (The Local.dk, link): "Director Thomas Vinterberg made it clear in Berlin on Wednesday that he is no fan of Denmark's reaction to the refugee crisis."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (18.2.16)

EU: DATABASE CHECKS AT BORDERS: Council of the European Union:
Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation No 562/2006 (EC) as regards the reinforcement of checks against relevant databases at external borders (LIMITE doc no: 6181-16, pdf):

"The intention of the Presidency, in line with the aforementioned mandates from the Council and the European Council, is to confirm a general approach on the compromise text at the JHA Council on 25 February 2016. It is noted that the changes vis-à-vis the Commission proposal are demonstrated in underline and the latest changes following the Coreper meeting on 10 February are indicated in bold and underline."

See: Previous document: LIMITE no: 5808-16 (pdf) and Commission Proposal (pdf)

UNHCR Daily Briefing: 17 February 2016:

"In Croatia, 116 people remain in the Jezevo detention centre for being of other nationalities than Afghan, Iraqi or Syrian or for possessing false or no
documents. UNHCR is monitoring their situation with frequent visits to the facility."

EU: Justice and Home Affairs Council, 25 February 2016: Agenda highlights

"Following the European Council of 18-19 February, ministers will discuss the implementation of existing measures on migration and may also consider possible future action.

The Council will aim to reach a general approach on the proposed regulation to reinforce checks against relevant databases at external borders. This regulation to amend the Schengen borders code, was presented by the European Commission in December 2015. It seeks to improve security inside the EU by making the checks on EU citizens against all relevant databases (which are already possible) mandatory.

Ministers will also discuss the proposal for a European border and coast guard, presented by the Commission in December 2015. The proposed agency, bringing together resources from Frontex and EU member states, would monitor migratory flows, identify weak spots and respond in situations where an EU external border is at risk.

The Council will hold an exchange of views on the possible application of article 26 of the Schengen borders code and related issues." [emphasis in original]

Belgium police mark refugees with indelible ink (PRESSTV, link):

Police in the Belgian port city of Zeebrugge have marked refugees with a number in indelible ink, a refugee support group says. Amitiés Sans Frontières (Friendships without Borders), the support group for refugees, said refugees in Zeebrugge told them that police had arrested many of them and assigned them serial numbers.

Refugees also said street cleaners confiscated their belongings, including sleeping bags, after being arrested. Many of the refugees at the Belgian port are seeking to cross into the UK through Englands east coast. Loïc Fraiture of the support group said a group of refugees said that police would regularly come and arrest them. It was not the first time &And so, there, when they are arrested, the police mark them with a number with a permanent marker on their hands, like animals.""

Lesvos, Greece: UNHCR Cordinating Meeting, Minutes (11.2.16)

"Now 24/7 shoreline response by volunteers and organization continues to operate smoothly. New developments with the Hellenic Coast Guard and Frontex taking the majority of the arrivals directly to Lesvos ports. UNHCR and Praksis were currently allowed to enter the Schengen area at ports and provide basic assistance and assist with transportation for registration. The new practice would need to be monitored in order to optimize support and response....The co-Chair from the Municipality informed that two registration desks for volunteers and organizations were being set up in the building of the General Secretariat of the Aegean and Island Policy."

And Arrivals on Lesvos rise again in better weather:

14/02/  016:      15
15/02/2016:        1
16/02/2016: 1,178
17/02/2016: 2,091

Migrant crisis: Austria sets asylum claims cap and transit limit (BBC News, link): "Austria will impose a daily quota on asylum claims and limit the flux of migrants travelling through the country.Officials say 80 asylum applications will be accepted each day, and a maximum of 3,200 people will be allowed to travel through Austria. The measures will be introduced on Friday."

and see: EU tells Austria daily cap on asylum applicants against law (ekathimerini.com, link):

"European Union Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos wrote to the Austrian government on Thursday to warn Vienna that its plan for a daily cap on the number of asylum seekers it would let across its border would break EU law.

What the Austrians have decided is not according to European laws, Avramopoulos told Reuters. I am sending the letter telling them that what they decided to do is not compatible to the European legislation. The Austrians are obliged to accept asylum applications without putting a cap.

EU migration mini-summit cancelled after Turkey attack (euobserver, link):

"A planned mini-summit on the refugee situation in Europe has been cancelled following a bomb attack in Turkey.

Austria was due to host the meeting on Thursday (18 February) in Brussels, where about 10 EU leaders were going to try to convince Turkey to agree to a migrant swap deal whereby EU states would accept a limited number of refugees if Ankara would take back those rejected by Europe."

News (18.2.16)

EU leaders to discuss Turkey, Plan B at migration dinner (ekathimerini.com, link):"European Union leaders pondering the migration crisis in Brussels on Thursday will discuss whether a German-backed strategy for Turkey to curb the flow was enough or a Plan B to close Balkan borders is needed."

European states deeply divided on refugee crisis before key summit (Guardian, link): "Germanys Angela Merkel is trying to salvage her open-door policy as a growing number of countries move to seal borders... The leaders of four anti-immigration eastern European countries met in Prague on Monday and demanded alternative EU policies by next month. Their plan amounts to exporting Hungary's zero-immigration razor-wire model to the Balkans, sealing Macedonia's border with northern Greece, and bottling up the vast numbers of refugees in Greece unless they are deported back to Turkey."

Fortress Europes Balkan Outpost: In giving up on Greece, Europe is betting on the tiny, corruption-ridden non-EU state of Macedonia to save the Schengen treaty from collapse. Is it ready? (Foreign Affairs. link)

Refugee hotspots in Greece: last minute compliance (DW. link): "The Greek government has delivered at the last minute. Just ahead of the EU migration summit in Brussels on Thursday, the government has unveiled its new reception centers intended to stem the refugee flow."

Refugee crisis 'impossible to handle' in Turkey (BBC News, link): "Many in Turkey feel a little like Canute, expected to halt something akin to a relentless natural phenomenon. There is a resentment that the European Union is simultaneously calling on the country to throw open the borders with Syria and stop them travelling on to Europe."

Demirtas: EU ignoring Turkey crackdown in bid for refugee deal (euractiv, link): "The European Union is turning a blind eye to human rights violations in Turkey in a doomed bid for a solution to its migrant crisis, the leader of Turkeys main Kurdish party told a Greek newspaper..."

EU: 5 biggest migration headaches (politico, link): "EU leaders are determined to show progress on refugees, but old problems persist and new ones keep arising."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (17.2.16)

New Statewatch Analysis:
Europe must do more& Hasnt it done enough? 20 years of restrictive EU immigration policy have inevitably - led us to the current situation (pdf) by Yasha Maccanico: A sweeping in-depth analysis:

"The greatest mistake would be to analyse the current situation and try to resolve it by following the same policy principles and approaches which produced it, as the EU is currently doing, by intensifying and militarising them. The current model has been based on restricting illegal or irregular immigration as absolute policy goals, by portraying the figure of the irregular and illegal migrant,...

a refusal to acknowledge the problems caused by immigration policy, suggest that the only means of tackling this issue with any positive prospects is to stabilise it and analyse its shortcomings and failures, with a view to scaling it down. This may be done by treating immigration policy, rather than the illegal entry of third-country nationals which may prove beneficial in the medium/long term, as a risk factor or security threat which is leading towards authoritarian state power, undermining important and long-established principles which the EU recognises as cornerstones of its project, even as it dismantles them."

New Greek law to include detention regime in "hotspots"

The Greek Government intends to introduce a new detention regime in the hotspots as part of legislative reforms of the countrys first reception framework. The Greek Parliament aims to fast-track the adoption of the law before the end of this month.

Under the new framework, people entering a Reception and Identification Centre, such as those to be established on the Eastern Aegean islands, will be subject to freedom of movement restrictions within the premises of the centre for an initial period of 3 days.

Greece: Campaign for the Access to Asylum: Press release - Invitation to Press Conference: Tuesday, February 23, 2016 at 5 pm at the Athens Bar Association hall (pdf):

"The organizations participating in the network group Campaign for the Access to Asylum, would like to express our deepest concern about the harrowing developments in the political and social context, which lead to the dismantling of the legal acquis concerning the refugee and human rights protection, both in Greece and Europe. Greece is about to implement policies in full and termless compliance with the european imperatives, subverting the up to date existing protection of refugees, as guaranteed by the International, European and National Law...

By sealing of Greek/Turkish border, which results to the refoulement of the refugees, the latter get excluded from their legally established right of protection.

By authorizing the involvement of the NATO forces, the refugee issue is being militarized. This revives distressing memories of the past, by stigmatizing the beneficiary of international protection as a potential enemy."

UNHCR Daily Report (17.2.16) How will NATO know which boats are "carrying migrants and not refugees"?

"The Greek Defence Minister mentioned in a media interview that NATO ships will send back all boats coming from Turkey carrying migrants and not refugees. He also reiterated that NATO operations will be taking place east of Greece and up to the Turkish shores.

However, during a meeting held on Monday (15 February) between NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, and EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, it was agreed that NATOs presence in the Aegean Sea will not aim at pushing back refugees but rather at providing crucial information and supervising the fight against human smuggling. It is to be noted that five NATO vessels (from Germany, Greece, Italy, Canada and Turkey) are already patrolling the area."

(News 17.2.16)

Demirtas: EU ignoring Turkey crackdown in bid for refugee deal (euractiv, link): "The European Union is turning a blind eye to human rights violations in Turkey in a doomed bid for a solution to its migrant crisis, the leader of Turkeys main Kurdish party told a Greek newspaper today."

Closure of Balkan Refugee Route Deepens Rifts in the EU (Global Research, link): "The criticisms from the German government are not directed against the humanitarian consequences of the closure of the Balkan route, but represent an attempt to preserve EU institutions. The German plans for repelling refugees are no less militarized. The plans of Chancellor Merkel to use NATO in sealing off the Aegean also include the illegal rejection of refugees. Such pushbacks, as the measures on the high seas are called, would mean that the crossing becomes increasingly dangerous for refugees, leading to a rapid rise in thethe death toll on the Aegean."

Dispatches: What Bulgarias Respect for Refugees Really Looks Like (HRW, link): "Speaking in the countrys capital, Sofia, Avramopoulos, the European commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship, said Bulgaria had the EUs support as well as his personal commitment as it seeks to police Europes outer frontiers.But can Avramopoulos really be confident that Bulgaria will respect migrants' rights in the way he hopes? Its track record suggests not."

Merkel criticises eastern Europe's plan to shut borders (euobserver, link): "German chancellor Angela Merkel Tuesday criticised an eastern European proposal to close the Balkan refugee route and promised to push instead for the EU-Turkey plan. "Do we really want to give up already and close the Greek-Macedonian-Bulgarian border?" she asked"

EU-Greece: Juncker: Shutting down Greece border would be illegal (ekathimerini.com, link): "One day ahead of an EU summit in Brussels to discuss the migration crisis, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that shutting down the Greek border to slow the influx would be illegal and unacceptable. It would be neither legal nor politically acceptable to cooperate with third countries in order to close the border to one of our member states, Juncker said in an interview with Germanys Bild daily."

Anti-migrant vigilantes begin patrols in Norway after Finland (dailysabah.com, link): "Norwegian police say a vigilante group calling itself the Soldiers of Odin has made a first appearance in the Scandinavian country amid an influx of migrants.Vestfold Police spokesman Torgny Alstad says about a dozen men dressed in black jackets, adorned with a Viking helmet and the group's name, patrolled the streets of Tonsberg near Norway's capital on Saturday night. He said Monday that officers watched the group but that no incidents were reported. The Soldiers of Odin, who derive their name from a Norse god, was founded last year in Finland where it regularly conducts street patrols."

Turkey unwilling to target refugee traffickers, experts warn (euractiv, link): "Senior experts said today (17 February) that unless Turkey starts targeting the mafias helping migrants cross into Europe, the worsening refugee crisis could push the British to vote to leave the Union, and bring about other disastrous consequences."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (16.2.16)

New Statewatch Analysis:
Why Turkey is Not a Safe Country (pdf) and: Executive Summary (pdf) by Emanuela Roman, Theodore Baird, and Talia Radcliffe:

"This article critiques recent European plans to consider Turkey a safe country. Based on detailed evidence of developments in Turkey, we argue that Turkey does not fulfil the conditions for being either a safe country of origin or a safe third country. We urge the Commission and Member States to seriously reconsider their designation of Turkey as a safe country."

Merkel warns against Visegrads plans for a reserve border system : "German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned yesterday (14 February) against plans for a reserve border system devised by the Visegrad Four, the group of countries including Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

The leaders of the Visegrad Four (also known as V4) are meeting today in Prague for a mini-summit ahead of the 18-19 February EU Council meeting. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov was invited, together with the President of Macedonia, to join the Prague meeting.

The Visegrad leaders seek a possible plan B in case of a collapse of the Schengen system and in particular an exit of Greece from the group. In particular, they want to make sure that the borders between Bulgaria and Greece and Macedonia and Greece are sealed and effectively stop the migration flows."

and: Are the Visegrad states sealing off the EU? (DW, link): "The Visegrad states want to shut down the Balkan route to refugees. In doing so, they could effectively exclude Greece from the Schengen zone. DW's Christoph Hasselbach looks at the issues." and: V4 PMs adopt Prague Declaration calling for strong Europe (Prague Monitor, link)

and: Davutoglu to meet with 11 like-minded EU countries (euractiv, link): "Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann has invited the heads of state and government of ten member states to attend a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on 18 February, in Brussels.... This is the third time that Davutoglu is meeting with the so-called like-minded countries which appear to be ready to take refugees directly from Turkey by plane. So far the leaders of Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and Greece have held two meetings in the Austrian Embassy, in the margins of the last two EU summits. This time, Slovenia, Finland, and Portugal will also join the discussion, so the Turkish Prime Minister will meet a total of 11 member states."

Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals in 2016 Pass 84,000; Deaths Reach 410 (IOM, link):

"Greece - An estimated 78,333 migrants or refugees have crossed into Greece since the beginning of 2016. Of these 16,140 arrived in February and 62,193 arrived in January, according to IOM."

At 16.2.16: Arrivals in EU in 2016: 86,320. Arrivals in Greece: 78,333 and in Italy 5,967. 410 dead/,issing (IOM)

News (16.2.16)

Greek minister: Hungary has sent nothing, not even a blanket (euractiv, link): "Athens blamed Hungary for not contributing to the countrys efforts to tackle the refugee crisis and for its political decision to help Macedonia build a fence at the Greek border."

Greece will open four hotspots in time for EU summit (euractiv, link) and Four of Greece's five 'hotspot' migrant centres ready, says Kammenos (ekathimerini.com, link):"Four of Greeces five new migrant registration centres are ready to function and welcome refugee, Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said Tuesday, as Athens comes under intense pressure to control the massive influx to Europe." but UNHCR 15.2.16 report: "On the islands of Kos, Leros, and on the mainland in Thessaloniki, the local community continues to protest against the establishment of hotspot facilities or camp-like settings."

EU-NATO-GREECE-TURKEY: 72 hours to launch NATOs migrant mission - Officials pulled off the seemingly impossible, to get the Greeks to agree to a Turkish idea.(politico, link): "When the idea first came up on Monday, it seemed unlikely that it would ever come to fruition: A military alliance doing the job of police forces and coast guard agencies; NATO meddling in the EUs struggle to protect its maritime borders; the Americans getting involved in affairs they see as purely European; and, most importantly, Athens agreeing to an idea that originated in Ankara, when the two governments barely communicate."

Greece: Lesbos opens new cemetery for refugee victims (Euronews, link): "The authorities in Lesbos has set aside a plot of land in a village to bury the dead after the existing cemetery ran out of space."

UNHCR Daily Report: 15.2.16: "On 14 February, the border crossing between the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece was briefly closed due to misinformation regarding Austrian authorities allegedly no longer allowing entry to refugees and migrants. The domino effect of border closure along the route, coupled with repeated statements made by Serbian, Croatian and Slovenian officials regarding adherence to similar border controls, would indicate that if German or Austrian authorities introduce limiting entry measures at its borders (or closure), all other governments will follow suite."

Excluding Greece from Schengen won't solve migrant crisis, says Tusk (ekathimerini.com, link): "Excluding Greece from the passport-free Schengen area will not solve Europe's migrant problem, EU Council President Donald Tusk said on Tuesday, but acknowledged the crisis was testing European cohesion to its limits."

Austria seeks to curb economic migrants (The Local.at, link): "Austria has announced that it will place six nations including Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on its list of "safe countries of origin", as it seeks to curb the number of economic migrants."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (15.2.16)


EU: Visegrad Group:
Anti-migrant force builds in Europe, hurting Merkel's quest (AP, link): "So where should the next impenetrable razor-wire border fence in Europe be built?

Hungary's right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban thinks he knows the best place - on Macedonia's and Bulgaria's borders with Greece - smack along the main immigration route from the Middle East to Western Europe. He says it's necessary because "Greece can't defend Europe from the south" against the large numbers of refugees pouring in, mainly from Syria and Iraq."

See also: Merkel warns against Visegrads plans for a reserve border system (EurActiv, link) and Eastern EU leaders to urge Balkan border clamp down (EUobserver, link)

EU: European Council, 18-19 February: Updated draft conclusions (dated 15 February 2016): dealing with 1. The United Kingdom and the European Union; 2. Migration; 3. Syria - Libya; 4. European Semester.

See: European Council (18-19 February 2016) - Draft conclusions (LIMITE doc no: 5079-16, pdf)

Previous version: European Council (18-19 February 2016) - Draft conclusions (LIMITE doc no: 5078-16, pdf)

FRANCE: A political movement is rising from the mud in Calais (The Conversation, link): "Since the official refugee reception centre in the French town of Calais closed in 2002, undocumented migrants hoping to cross the Channel to Britain have found shelter in a number of squatted migrant camps, locally known as the jungles.

Consisting largely of tents and self-built shacks, the two largest in Calais and Dunkirk now have some 8,000 residents between them. Many are refugees fleeing conflict in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan and surviving in extremely poor living conditions.

For the most part, this is a humanitarian disaster. But the jungles of Northern France are also giving rise to a new political movement, which draws in new supporters every day."

Europe: UNHCR concerned over increasing restrictive measures, urges effective comprehensive European response (UNHCR, link): "Solutions to Europe's situation are not only eminently possible, but have already been agreed by States and urgently need to be implemented. Stabilization is essential and something for which there is also strong public demand. Within the context of the necessary reduction of dangerous sea arrivals, safe access to seek asylum, including through resettlement and humanitarian admission, is a fundamental human right that must be protected and respected.

Regular pathways to Europe and elsewhere are important for allowing refugees to reach safety without putting their lives in the hands of smugglers and making dangerous sea crossings. Avenues, such as enhanced resettlement and humanitarian admission, family reunification, private sponsorship, and humanitarian and refugee student/work visas, should be established to ensure that movements are manageable, controlled and coordinated for countries receiving these refugees."

News (15.2.16)

Around 80,000 refugees arrive in Europe in first six weeks of 2016 (UNHCR, link): "Despite rough seas and harsh winter weather, more than 80,000 refugees and migrants arrived in Europe by boat during the first six weeks of 2016, more than in the first four months of 2015, the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, announced today.

In addition it said more than 400 people had lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean. However, despite the dangers over 2,000 people a day continue to risk their lives and the lives of their children attempting to reach Europe."

GERMANY: Cologne: Only three out of 58 men arrested in connection with mass sex attack on New Year's Eve are refugees (The Independent, link): "Just three of the 58 suspects arrested in connection with the mass sex attack on women in Cologne on New Years Eve were refugees, it has been reported.

Refugees were blamed for more than 1,000 reports of theft, sex assault and rape of women at Colognes central train station - leading to a hardening of attitudes towards Chancellor Angela Merkels open door policy on refugees.

But of those arrested only three - two Syrians and an Iraqi - had recently arrived in Germany."

GREECE: 'Hotspot' migrant centres to open in Greece this week (Ekathimerini, link): "Greece will open four migrant registration centres in time for an EU summit this week, a government source told AFP on Monday, as Athens comes under heavy pressure to control the massive influx to Europe.

Four of Greece's five "hotspot" centres will formally open by Wednesday on the islands of Lesvos, Chios, Leros and Samos, which have been struggling to cope with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants landing from Turkey in flimsy boats, the source said.

The centers were supposed to open late last year but have faced repeated delays."

GREECE-MACEDONIA: Shutting down FYROM border will slow refugee flow, Kurz says (Ekathimerini, link): "Closing Greeces northern border with Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) will stem the refugee flow into Europe, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz has said.

If the norther border is shut down leaving Greece for more than 24 hours with the refugees on its territory then its interest in accepting European help will quickly change, Kurz said in an interview with Greek Ta Nea daily."

Greek anarchists organise for refugees as 'state fails' (Al Jazeera, link): "As thousands of refugees and migrants continued to be turned away at borders, a steady flow of new faces poured into the Notara solidarity centre in the Exarcheia neighbourhood of Athens.

Notara was founded in late September when around 20 anarchists and leftists occupied an abandoned, three-storey building belonging to the Greek Ministry of Labour. The centre provides temporary accommodation, basic medical treatment, clothing and information for up to 130 refugees and migrants each day."

SPAIN: Siete ocupantes de la patera rescatada el domingo en Canarias murieron en el mar [Seven occupants of a dinghy rescued in the Canaries died at sea] (20 Minutos, link): 49 people departed from the coast of the Western Sahara to try to reach the Canary Islands. Seven of them died. The two supposed skippers have been detained by the police along with eight people suspected of denying food to the other passengers. The 874 people who arrived in the Canary Islands in 2015 is higher than the total number for the three preceding years.


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (13-14.2.16)

"RETURNS": EU: Council of the European Union: Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Regulation (EC): No 2007/2004, Regulation (EC) No 863/2007 and Council Decision 2005/267/EC - Extracts concerning the establishment of the Frontex Return Office (LIMITE doc no: 6106-16, pdf)

The 'Returns' part of the borders guard proposal has been revised - it no longer provides for operations against a Member State's objections. But it still applies to third countries - ie Frontex will coordinate returns from Serbia etc so that people do not get any closer to the EU.

Council: DRAFT COMPROMISE for REGULATION on the European Border and Coast Guard: Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Border and Coast Guard and repealing Regulation (EC) No 2007/2004, Regulation (EC) No 863/2007 and Council Decision 2005/267/EC (LIMITE doc no: 5848-16, pdf):

"Delegations will find in the Annex to this Note a series of Presidency draft compromise suggestions on the basis of the discussions that have taken place so far on the above proposal, as well as of the written contributions submitted by delegations.

The suggested compromise text is demonstrated in bold and underline. It is noted that compromise suggestions for Article 2 (which is put in square brackets) will be put forward at a later stage when the discussions on the relevant operative provisions will be advanced."

EU-GREECE: 50 "RECOMMENDATIONS": Council Implementing Decision setting out a Recommendation on addressing the serious deficiencies identified in the 2015 evaluation of the application of the Schengen acquis in the field of management of the external borders by Greece (pdf) Final text: adopted by the Council at its 3445th meeting held on 12 February 2016.

Frontex Executive Director to meet NATO Secretary General and EU Commissioner Avramopoulos (link):

"Frontex currently has 775 officers and support staff deployed on the Greek islands as part of Poseidon Rapid Intervention. The operation also includes 15 vessels patrolling the areas most affected by the migration flows.

We will work closely with NATO and its members to cooperate in doing all we can to combat the criminals making billions of euros from smuggling desperate people from Turkey to Greece, said Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri."

Greece: Unknown dead fill Lesbos cemetery for refugees drowned at Sea (todayszaman.com, link):

"She drowned trying to reach Europe, but her headless body was never identified. Her tombstone will bear no name.

Like others buried beside her in an olive grove on the Greek island of Lesbos, the marble plaque on her unmarked grave will proclaim the victim "Unknown." Her epitaph an identification number, the date she washed ashore, and her presumed age: one.

Sixty-four earthen graves have been dug in this land plot for refugees and migrants who drowned crossing the Aegean Sea trying to reach Europe. Just 27 of those are named.

URGENT CALL TO ACTION: EU plans to criminalise charities and individuals for helping war refugees in Greek Islands (iona.org.uk, link): "The Schengen countries are just watching this crime happening in the world and they didnt take action when it was happening. And they think that Greece is responsible for this when we are victims too.  We now call on everyone who supports this work to take action now to circulate this urgent call to action and take action yourself to help make a difference in the world." see also: Statewatch News story: Refugee crisis: Council proposals on migrant smuggling would criminalise humanitarian assistance by civil society, local people and volunteers - Greece: NGOs and volunteers have to "register" with the police and be vetted

News (13-14.2.16)

Turkey presents own project for use of EU refugee fund to Brussels (hurriyetdailynews.com, link): "Voicing unease with calls on Turkey to open its border to take in tens of thousands more Syrian refugees fleeing regime advances around Aleppo, Deputy Prime Minister Yalçin Akdogan has said Turkey has sent the EU a package of project plans for the 3 billion-euro refugee fund."

Czech foreign minister offers Macedonia help in tackling migrant crisis (Radio Praha, link): "Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek held talks with top officials in Macedonia on Wednesday offering the country material and personnel assistance in dealing with the refugee crisis. The minister stressed the need to bring the flow of migrants on the so-called Balkans route under control and highlighted the crucial role of Macedonia in helping to bring this about."

Greece: Refugees crisis concerns all EU, Tsipras and Italian parliament president Boldrini state (ANAmpa, link): "In their talks in front of the cameras before their meeting at Maximos mansion in Athens, Tsipras noted that Europe is at a crucial point and that "we have to deal with three crises, the ongoing economic crisis, the refugee crisis and the security crisis."

Serbia: 'In 2015 we had 600,000 migrants pass through Serbia' (DW, link): "Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic wants unified EU action on refugees. He says that if Austria and other EU countries close their borders to refugees, Serbia would be forced to reconsider its policies."

Norway's 'effective' border checks extended (The Local.no,, link): "The Norwegian government said on Friday it would extend border checks for an additional 30 days."

France: Police and 'militias' attacking refugees at Calais, says charity (Observer, link): "Rise in number of Jungle camp refugees, including children, being treated for stabbings, broken bones and head trauma"

France and Russia blast Merkel's refugee policy (The Local.de, link):" German Chancellor Angela Merkel's liberal refugee policy, which brought 1.1 million asylum seekers to Germany in 2015, is not sustainable in the long run, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned Friday."

Greece's Economy Is Getting Crushed Between Austerity And The Refugee Crisis: The most common arrival point for refugees entering Europe is a country in dire economic strait (Huffington Post, link): "The refugee crisis is testing the limits of Greeces flagging economy, jeopardizing its ability to handle a flow of refugees that shows no signs of slowing. Added to the existing strains of austerity, the renewed economic pressure from the crisis is stoking fears within the Greek government that a new wave of anti-refugee xenophobia could take hold unless the European Union and Turkey significantly step up to help manage the crisis."

Turkey presents own project for use of EU refugee fund to Brussels (hurriyetdailynews.com, link): "Voicing unease with calls on Turkey to open its border to take in tens of thousands more Syrian refugees fleeing regime advances around Aleppo, Deputy Prime Minister Yalçin Akdogan has said Turkey has sent the EU a package of project plans for the 3 billion-euro refugee fund."

Some 80,000 refugees arrive in Europe in first six weeks of 2016 (UNHCR, link): "Despite rough seas and harsh winter weather, more than 80,000 refugees and migrants arrived in Europe by boat during the first six weeks of 2016, more than in the first four months of 2015, the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, announced today.... "The majority of those arriving in January 2016, nearly 58 per cent, were women and children; one in three people arriving to Greece were children as compared to just 1 in 10 in September 2015," UNHCR's Chief spokesperson Melissa Fleming told a press briefing in Geneva. Fleming added that over 91 per cent of those arriving in Greece come from the world's top ten refugee producing countries, including Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq."

Greece: Avramopoulos plays down Schengen warning as Greece faces deadline (ekathimerini.com, link): "Today the European Council adopted, as expected, the recommendations for addressing the deficiencies and shortcomings at Greeces borders which are also the external borders of Schengen, Avramopoulos said during a visit to Athens for talks with the leftist-led government that has found itself under escalating pressure to take action."

EU moves toward longer-term suspension of open borders (dailysabah.com, link): "The EU took another step toward the suspension of the open-borders zone for two years due to a failure to agree on a common solution. Meanwhile, the Balkan countries plan to block the migration route may cause thousands of migrants to be stranded along the route."

Greece has 3 months to remedy deficiencies in border control, EU member states say (dailysabah.com, link): "EU member states on Friday gave Greece a three-month ultimatum to remedy "deficiencies" in controlling the influx of refugees or face border controls with the rest of the Schengen passport-free zone, EU sources said."



Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe
(12.2.16)

EU: The Deadly Treatment of Refugees in Europe (Rolling Stone, link): "Meanwhile, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, governing since the November 13 Paris attacks over an indefinite state of emergency, insists that refugees "destabilize our societies." Katie Hopkins, a UK tabloid "columnist" and a devout Trumpist, has written, "These migrants are like cockroaches. They might look a bit 'Bob Geldof's Ethiopia circa 1984,' but they are built to survive a nuclear bomb." Masked thugs in Stockholm randomly beat refugee children; the encampment in the French town of Calais has been raided by anti-refugee goons; a German anti-Islam group, PEGIDA, has staged rallies all over the continent. Europe might not have a common refugee policy, but it's certainly developing a common ethics."

EU: Europol-Frontex cooperation agreement: "The cooperation between the Parties aims at supporting the Member States of the European Union in preventing and combating cross-border criminal activities in the areas of crime referred to in Article 3, improve integrated border management and facilitate the operational cooperation of Member States' authorities at the external borders."

Article 3 says: "The cooperation as established in this Agreement shall... relate to relevant areas of crime within the mandate of both Parties at the date of entry into force of this Agreement in particular facilitation of illegal migration, trafficking in human beings, terrorism, and other cross-border criminal activities," as well as: "related criminal offences deemed as the criminal offences committed in order to procure the means of perpetrating the criminal acts referred to in paragraph 1, criminal offences committed in order to facilitate or carry out such acts, and criminal offences committed to ensure the impunity of such acts"

See: Agreement on Operational Cooperation between the European Police Office "EUROPOL") and the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union ("FRONTEX") (pdf)

UK: London, Monday 15-Thursday 18 February 2016: Refugee Week at Queen Mary University School of Law (pdf): Sessions refugees on legal assistance, access to education and recognition of qualifications; lectures; film screening.

GREECE-EU: Be ready to completely stop the migrant flow, Austria tells Macedonia (euractiv, link): "Austria told Macedonia today (12 February) to be ready to "completely stop" the flow of migrants across its southern border from Greece and said it would do the same on its own frontiers within months."

News (12.2.16)

FRANCE: Half of 'Jungle'camp to be bulldozed and up to 1,000 people moved (The Guardian, link): "France intends to bulldoze half of the makeshift Jungle camp in Calais and authorities have given one weeks warning to between 800 and 1,000 migrants and refugees to leave a seven-hectare southern section of the site.

The Calais prefect, Fabienne Buccio, told Le Monde she intended to reduce the size of the camp by about half.

The time has come to move on, no one must live in the southern part of the camp, everyone must leave this section, she told Agence France-Presse, estimating that some 800 to 1,000 migrants would be affected."

EU designates Turkey as safe to return refugees; Erdogan escalates civil war against Kurds (undercoverinfo, link): "This month the European Commission released a document that designated Turkey as a safe third country to which thousands of refugees could be returned. Plans are underway to ensure that all refugees not eligible for relocation in Europe will be returned to Turkey."

EU-NATO: Opinion: Using a hammer to crack a nut (DW, link): "Germany and Turkey have made a plea for NATO's assistance in the refugee crisis. The alliance was asked to help track down smuggler gangs. But that is not a job for a military alliance, writes DW's Barbara Wesel."

EU imposes border demands on Greece (euobserver, link): "EU states have piled the pressure on Greece to sort out its frontiers or risk extending internal controls throughout the passport-free Schengen zone for up to two years. Ministers on Friday (12 February) issued Athens some 50 demands following EU Commission criticism that Greece had "seriously neglected its obligations" on border management when it came to migrant inflows.... Greece voted against the Schengen report in an economic and financial affairs council. Both Bulgaria and Cyprus abstained. Everyone else backed the report."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (11.2.16)
AN UNHOLY ALLIANCE: TURKEY-GREECE-GERMANY-NATO: NATO Defence Ministers agree NATO support to assist with the refugee and migrants crisis (NATO Press release, pdf):

"to stem the illegal trafficking and illegal migration in the Aegean" Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said...The Secretary General stressed that this mission is not about stopping or pushing back refugee boats, but about contributing critical information and surveillance to help counter human trafficking and criminal networks."

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments: "Has noone told him that the great majority of arrivals come over through smuggling not trafficking or that there is no such things as "illegal" migration? And to say that the operation is "not about stopping or pushing back boats" is economical with the truth"

and: NATO launches sea mission against migrant traffickers (Reuters, link): "Unlike the EU's maritime mission off the Italian coast, which brings rescued migrants to Europe's shores, NATO will return migrants to Turkey even if they are picked up in Greek waters."

MASS REFOULEMENT?: Migrant crisis: Nato deploys Aegean people-smuggling patrols (BBC News, link):

"German Defence Minister Ursula Von der Leyen said several Nato members had pledged warships and that any refugees rescued would be returned to Turkey, a fellow Nato ally....

"Nato ships are being deployed to the Aegean sea to deter people-smugglers taking migrants from Turkey to Greece.. The announcement followed a request from Turkey, Germany and Greece at a defence ministers' meeting in Brussels.

Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg said the mission would not be about "stopping or pushing back refugee boats". Nato, he said, will contribute "critical information and surveillance to help counter human trafficking and criminal networks"."

and: Defence Minister Kammenos on NATO's involvement in refugee crisis (ANAmpa, link):

"Kammenos noted that Greece in cooperation with Germany as well as other members of the NATO managed to reach an agreement that "will finally solve that migration issue."

"Greece has paid an extremely heavy price for the migration and in the midst of an economic crisis disproportianetly with the other state members of EU and NATO," stated Kammenos.

He also said that today's decision safeguards that NATO forces operating in the Aegean will ensure that the migrants to be arrested will directly return to Turkey.

The second very important fact is according to the Greek Defence Minister that "it is totally clear that in the forces that will participate in the NATO group, Turkey will only operate inside its territorial waters and airspace and Greece accordingly."
[emphasis added]

EU-GREECE: 50 DEMANDS: Council of the European Union: Draft Council Implementing Decision setting out a Recommendation on addressing the deficiencies identified in the 2015 evaluation of the application of the Schengen acquis in the field of management of the external borders by Greece (LIMITE doc no: 5876-15, pdf): Detailed instructions.

MASS TRANSFER OF ASYLUM-SEEKERS TO GREECE?: European Commission adopted the following: Recommendation of 10.2.2016 addressed to the Hellenic Republic on the urgent measures to be taken by Greece in view of the resumption of transfers under Regulation (EU) No. 604/2013 (pdf): This Recommendation could mean that asylum seekers - who should under Dublin have been first registered in Greece could be transferred back there by other EU Member States:

"(25) Regular reporting by Greece on the progress being made in implementing these actions, as well as other relevant elements including any forthcoming reports from UNCHR and other relevant organisations, should clarify the assessment of whether the conditions are such as to allow for Member States to resume individual transfers to Greece under the Dublin Regulation, bearing in mind that the volume of transfers and the categories of persons to be transferred should correspond to the specific progress made.

(26) Any resumption of Dublin transfers to Greece should also take into account that Greece still receives a large number of potential asylum seekers on a daily basis, and it should be avoided that an unsustainable burden is placed on Greece.

(27) The responsibility for deciding on such resumption of transfers lies exclusively with Member States' authorities under the control of the courts, which may make preliminary references to the European Court of Justice on the interpretation of the Dublin Regulation."

And: "Many asylum-seekers are currently not provided with the necessary free legal aid to enable them to pursue an appeal against a first instance asylum decision, in accordance with the EU rules. The relevant provisions of Council Directive 2013/32/EU have not yet been transposed into national law or implemented." [emphasis added]

The Commission is being dishonest: In the Communication State of Play of Implementation of the Priority Actions under the European Agenda on Migration, under the heading "Safe third countries" it says under the heading "Safe third countries"::

"Asylum Procedures Directive requires that the possibility exists to receive protection in accordance with the Geneva Convention" (page 18, COM 85-2016)

The full text of the clause in the procedures directive is of course 'the possibility exists to request refugee status and, if found to be a refugee, to receive protection in accordance with the Geneva Convention...'"

They have deliberately omitted the part in bold, with the words 'refugee status' and 'refugee', referring to receiving protection only.

Steve Peers, Professor of Law, University of Essex, comments:

"How is it possible for Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans and many others to 'request refugee status', to be 'found to be a refugee' and to 'receive protection in accordance with the Geneva Convention' in a country which (like Turkey) only applies the Geneva Convention to refugees from Europe? The Commission's selective and misleading quotation from the text of the EU Directive suggests that it knows its argument is weak."

EU elites' failures lead to desperate plans to try and stop the arrival of refugees from Turkey, to put all the responsibility on Greece, Macedonia and Serbia and threaten to send refugees in the rest of the EU back to Greece:

Turkey dismisses EU plan to resettle refugees in return for sealing sea route (Guardian, link): "Ankaras ambassador to EU describes plan to take in refugees from Turkey only if Aegean sea route is closed as unacceptable and infeasible."

and: Athens given deadline as EU looks to send more refugees back to Greece (Guardian, link): "EU authorities want to reintroduce Greece to Dublin system, which lets governments send asylum seekers back to the first country they arrived in."

Crisis-hit Europe on cusp of tragedy like World War One, warns Tusk (euractiv, link): "European Council President Donald Tusk has warned that Europe, reeling from the migration and the possibility of the UK quitting the bloc, is on the cusp of a tragedy like World War One."

Turkey and Greece seek NATO mission in Aegean, German official says (euractiv, link): "Turkey and Greece have agreed to ask for a NATO mission to monitor refugee flows in the Aegean Sea and combat people smugglers, a senior German government official said late yesterday (10 February)".

No migrant swap deal, says Turkey (euobserver, link):

"Turkey has rejected a Dutch-led migrant swap deal, as Balkan nations threaten border clampdowns to stem the inflows of people. The Netherlands, currently chairing the EU presidency, had proposed an annual resettlement of up 250,000 people from Turkey to member states in return for Ankara stopping people from crossing into Greece.

But Turkey's ambassador to the EU Selim Yenel told the Guardian newspaper on Wednesday (10 February) the proposal would never work. "Forget it. It's unacceptable. And it's not feasible," he said."

'The Europe we wished for' (euobserver, link):

"Fundamentally, however, the refugee crisis has been a test of European values, and whether the EU can live up to the human rights goals and principles it has been advocating. One pressing question that academics face now is whether it is still a legitimate subject of inquiry to study the nitty-gritty details of the EUs human rights advocacy when the EUs image as a champion of human rights has been so badly tarnished by the refugee crisis....

One might easily get the impression that the EU took a cynical approach towards Turkey by re-energising the EU accession process as part of the deal on the refugee crisis at the same time as Turkey was cracking down on media freedom, on the Kurdish minority in its south-east, and briefly detaining 27 academics protesting against its Kurdish policy."

Greece/Macedonia: Asylum Seekers Trapped at Border: Blocked Access to Asylum; Beatings by Soldiers; Poor Conditions (HRW, link):

The failure of the European Union to tackle the refugee crisis fairly and responsibly has led to cascading restrictions at borders, with asylum seekers and migrants facing greater risks of abuse and exploitation, said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch. Desperate people who are the wrong nationality are being denied the right to move on, beaten by border guards if they try to cross, and preyed upon by smugglers. Greek authorities will not allow asylum seekers to cross into the no-mans land to reach the Macedonia border post unless they are Syrians, Iraqis, and Afghans who express the intention to seek asylum in Germany or Austria."

LESVOS: A video to watch (Facebook, link): "Please. Find a spare half an hour and sit and watch this."

News (11.2.16)

Turkey: Erdogan threatens to send refugees to the EU by plane and bus (euractiv, link): "Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan today (11 February) slammed EU and UN pressure to open Turkey's borders to more refugees, threatening to send the millions already in the country to other states."

Austria looks set to construct more border fences (The Local.at, link): "Austrias government has said it will announce new measures this week to secure its southern border crossings in Tyrol and Carinthia where migrants and refugees are likely to try and cross when faced with stricter controls at the border with Slovenia."

EU: Faster action urged on European refugee crisis (DW, link): "Not much: These words could summarize the progress made so far by the EU in the refugee crisis. With just a week to go to the next summit, the European Commission has again urged member states to do more."

NATO-GREECE: Kammenos sets out conditions for NATO to sweep Aegean (ekathimerini.com, link): "Greece has told its NATO partners that it will accept naval patrols in the Aegean, including on the Greek side of the sea, under certain conditions despite initially seeming opposed to the idea due to concerns about sovereignty issues."

Italy: EC slams Italy on migrant repatriations (ANSA, link): "But Avramopoulos says Rome needn't worry about proceedings"

Greece: Everything You Need To Know About Greeces New Plan To Register Refugees - Not everyone's thrilled. (Huffington Post, link)

European Parliament calls for stricter Turkish inspection of human smuggling (hurriyetdailynews.com, link): "The Turkish government recently announced it was prepared to legally treat human smuggling as a terror crime."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (10.2.16)
Refugee crisis: European Commission "State of Play" reports: 10 February 2016

- Implementing the European Agenda on Migration: Progress on Priority Actions (Press release, pdf):

"In view of next week's European Council, the Commission is today reporting on the implementation of the priority actions under the European Agenda for Migration and highlighting key areas where immediate action is needed to restore control."

- Managing the Refugee Crisis: Commission reports on implementation of EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan (pdf):

"First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: "I...We will continue to work jointly with our Turkish partners to fully implement the joint action plan so we can deliver on the commitments taken to bring order into migratory flows.. "

- Implementing the Common European Asylum System: Commission acts on 9 infringement proceedings (Press release, pdf)

"The European Commission today decided to issue reasoned opinions against Member States in 9 infringement cases concerning their non-transposition of the Common European Asylum System. The decisions concern Germany (2 cases), Estonia, Slovenia (2 cases), Greece, France, Italy and Latvia."

- State of Play of Implementation of the Priority Actions under the European Agenda on Migration: COM 85-2016 (pdf)

Commission arguing today that Turkey is a 'safe third country' so Greece & other MS should send refugees back

"Safe third countries

The Asylum Procedures Directive provides Member States with the possibility not to examine the substance of an asylum claim where, due to a sufficient connection with a "safe third country", the applicant can instead seek protection there. Where the conditions are met, this provision allows Member States to close the asylum procedure and to return the asylum applicant to the safe third country in question. However, at this stage, not all Member States foresee the application of this possibility in their national laws, or they do so under restrictive conditions. All Member States are therefore encouraged to foresee in their national legislation the notion of safe third countries and to apply it when the conditions are met.

In this context, the Commission underlines that the concept of safe third country as defined in the Asylum Procedures Directive requires that the possibility exists to receive protection in accordance with the Geneva Convention, but does not require that the safe third country has ratified that Convention without geographical reservation. Moreover, as regards the question whether there is a connection with the third country in question, and whether it is therefore reasonable for the applicant to go to that country, it can also be taken into account whether the applicant has transited through the safe third country in question, or whether the third country is geographically close to the country of origin of the applicant."
[emphasis added]

- Commission: Proposal for a COUNCIL DECISION establishing the position to be taken on behalf of the European Union within the Joint Readmission Committee on a Decision of the Joint Readmission Committee on implementing arrangements for the application of Articles 4 and 6 of the Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Turkey on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation as of 1 June 2016 (pdf) and ANNEX 1 (pdf)

- Annex 1: EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan - Implementation Report (pdf)

- Annex 2: Greece - State of Play Report (pdf)

- Annex 3 - Italy - State of Play (pdf)

- Annex 4: Relocation (pdf)

- Annex 5: Follow up to Western Balkans Leaders' Meeting - State of Play report (pdf)

- Annex 7: Pledges(pdf)

- Annex 8: Implementation of EU law - State of Play (pdf)

- Implementing the European Agenda on Migration: Commission reports on progress in Greece, Italy and the Western Balkans (Press Release, pdf)

CARRY ON AND IMPLEMENT THE DECISIONS: European Council: European Council (18-19 February 2016) - Draft conclusions (LIMITE doc no: 5078-16, pdf):

"All Members of the Schengen area should apply fully the Schengen Borders Code and refuse entry at external borders to third-country nationals who do not satisfy the entry conditions or who have not made an asylum application despite having had the opportunity to do so...

As far as the "European Border and Coast Guard" proposal is concerned, work should be accelerated with a view to reaching a political agreement under the Netherlands Presidency."

European Parliament: Turkey: more needs to be done for refugees living outside camps, Civil Liberties MEPs say (pdf):

"The efforts of the Turkish government to care for the high number of Syrian refugees living in refugee camps in the country must be recognised, members of the Civil Liberties Committee visiting Turkey said on Wednesday. But they also stressed that the situation for refugees outside the camps is precarious and that more needs to be done to ensure health, food, education and employment."

At the Macedonian border, migrants know time is running out (The Economist, link):

"Syrian refugees fear the border will close. For north Africans it already has.

ON THE migrant trail at the border between Greece and Macedonia, everyone is scared. Refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are scared that Europes doors are closing. Economic migrants from Morocco and Algeria, trying to pass themselves off as refugees, are frightened that they will be turned back and forced to take deadly risks to evade border guards. The Greeks are worried that if the Macedonians seal the border, the refugees will be trapped in Greece. The Macedonians are frightened that the Serbs, one step further along the migrant route, will do the same to them."

Law Allows Detention of Asylum Seekers in Bulgaria (Detained, link): "These broad discretionary powers represent a serious risk factor for corruption. Regarding zones of movement, their introduction in a relatively small country like Bulgaria, which, unlike Germany, has a centralized model of government, and in which economic opportunities are concentrated in several big cities, appears unjustified, especially considering that the same bill aims at helping asylum seekers participate in the labour market by giving them the right to work after three months from the beginning of their asylum procedure.

IOM: 76,263 arrivals in the EU in 2016: 70,365 to Greece, 5,898 to Italy. 409 dead/missing (this number already exceeds the total for he whole of 2105.

News (10.2.16)

Germany says would participate in NATO refugee mission (ekathimerini.com, link): "Germany would take part in a potential NATO mission to help slow refugee flows in the Aegean Sea, the country's defense minister said on Wednesday, a day before the alliance is due to discuss a request for help. Struggling to stop refugees streaming into Greece despite a deal between Ankara and the European Union to combat the flows, Germany and Turkey surprised partners this week by saying they would raise the issue with NATO."

EU moves towards longer-term border checks inside free-travel zone (ekathimerini.com, link): "European Union states took a new step towards a two-year suspension of their open-borders zone on Wednesday as the bloc's executive again rebuked them for failing to act on agreements to stem irregular migration. The European Commission, in reports ahead of an EU summit next week when leaders will again discuss how to resolve a crisis that has set them against each other, renewed its pleas for Greece and Italy to speed up the establishment of processing centres to register refugees and deport illegal migrants."

Brussels Briefing: Dublins Greece problem (FT Blog, link): "Greece is not in Dublin. While this fact is pretty basic geography, it is also a crucial part of understanding why the EUs response to the refugee crisis has been so chaotic. It all goes back to a 2011 ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, which deemed Greeces asylum system degrading. Since then Greece has not been a fully functioning member of the Dublin system, which is supposed to ensure asylum seekers apply for shelter in their first port of call. If they do not do this, and head to another EU country, then that country should deport them back to where they started. Or so Dublin says."

We'll send in the warships, says Nato: Vessels set to patrol the Aegean Sea in attempt to stop migrants crossing (Mail Online, link): "German chancellor called allies to send vessels to patrol the Turkish coast - Defence ministers are considering military action to stop people smugglers - Decision could be seen as admission that EU has failed to tackle the influx - Downing Street refused to comment on whether British vessels are sent.".

Greek govt cautious as NATO gets call for help (ekathimerini.com, link): "Wary of Turkish assertiveness in the Aegean, Athens received the initiative with caution. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that any NATO involvement should be restricted to the Turkish coast and guarantee Greek sovereign rights. Greece is expected to repeat its position when Defense Minister Panos Kammenos attends the Brussels talks."

Border fences will not stop migrants heading to Europe, think-tank says (ekathimerini.com, link): "Efforts by European countries to deter migrants with border fences, teargas and asset seizures will not stem the flow of people into the continent, and European leaders should make their journeys safer, a think-tank said on Wednesday."

Kos aiming for referendum on hosting hot spot (ekathimerini.com, link): "The municipal council on Kos, where some residents have strongly opposed efforts to construct a processing center for migrants and refugees, on Tuesday decided to hold a referendum on the island to canvass locals opinions about the so-called hot spot."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (9.2.16)
Where is the EU going?

Turkish PM in Brussels migration talks next week (euobserver, link):

"Turkey's prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, is set to meet leaders from a handful of EU states ahead of an EU summit in Brussels next week... A similar pre-summit meeting was held last December with Germany, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Finland, Sweden, Greece, France, Portugal, Slovenia and the Netherlands at the Austrian permanent representation in Brussels...

Turkey is hoping to get visa restrictions on its nationals lifted in October. The EU wants to start returning people this summer who transited through Turkey to claim asylum in the EU but are not entitled to international protection.... Nato will discuss possible support for patrolling the Aegean, after the idea was raised by Germany and Turkey on Monday.... outstanding political issues remain, with some member states, particularly in the east, reluctant to accept Muslims" and

Turkey, Germany to involve NATO in monitoring Syrian refugee exodus (euractiv, link): "Turkey and Germany plan to seek help from NATO allies in monitoring Syrian refugees trying to get to Europe across the Aegean Sea, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said yesterday (8 February)." and:

National reluctance sinks EU's refugee relocation plan (euractiv, link): "European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker's flagship plan to stem Europe's migration crisis by redistributing refugees around the bloc risks crumbling, as EU states balk at sharing the burden, according to several diplomats and officials.... some countries are setting unacceptable conditions by refusing Muslims, black people or large families, with Eastern European states the worst for discriminating on religious or racial grounds." [emphasis added]

Women's Refugee Commission: No Safety for Refugee Women on the European Route (link):

" There is virtually no consideration of gender-based violence along the route to ensure safe environments, identify survivors and ensure that services are provided to them.

Protection risks for women, girls and other vulnerable groups are present at every stage of the European refugee migration; and at every point where risk could be mitigated, the opportunity to do so is squandered."

European Parliament study: Reception of female refugees and asylum seekers in the EU Case study Germany (pdf):

"Upon request by the FEMM Committee, the reception of female asylum seekers in Germany is examined. The research is provided for the delegation of FEMM Members to a refugee camp in Munich/Germany. It presents both the EU and the German legal framework concerning the reception of (female) refugees. Attention has been paid whether gender-sensitive asylum application procedures and reception conditions are provided in practice in Germany."

GERMANY-TURKEY: Angela Merkel visits Turkey in bid to galvanise refugee crisis response (Guardian, link):

"German chancellor vows to take refugees directly from Turkey into Europe and calls for Nato patrols in Aegean as she meets Recep Tayipp Erdogan. Angela Merkel has promised to take refugees directly from Turkey into Europe and called for Nato patrols in the Aegean on her second visit to Ankara in three months as she desperately tried to enlist Turkeys help in easing the refugee crisis, the biggest threat to her power at home and the stability of the European Union....

The four-page record of a meeting between Erdogan and Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk, the presidents of the European commission and the European council, in the Turkish resort of Antalya in November, paints a picture of an EU prostrate before a Turkish leader who treats their offers, pleas, and arguments with derision."

Turkey and Germany agree on plan to ease refugee crisis (aljazeera.com, link): "Turkey and Germany have agreed on a set of measures to deal with the Syrian refugee crisis,... German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was in the Turkish capital for talks on how to reduce the influx of refugees into Europe, said after discussions with Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's prime minister...

Davutoglu said the two countries' security forces would increase efforts to thwart illegal migration and combat smuggling groups. The two leaders would also be trying to get NATO's involvement in the refugee issue, Davutoglu said. He said they would seek the use of NATO's observation capabilities at the border with Syria and in the Aegean Sea....

Turkey has since started to require Syrians arriving from developing countries to apply for visas, in an effort to exclude those who aim to continue on to Greece. Turkey has also agreed to grant work permits to Syrians as an incentive for them to stay in Turkey, and has announced plans to increase coastguards' capabilities and designate human smuggling as a form of organised crime - which would bring stiffer punishments." [emphasis added]

and see: Germany, Turkey want Nato help to police coast (euobserver, link): "Germany and Turkey are seeking Nato help to police the Turkish coast guard along the Aegen Sea to clamp down on people smugglers."

Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals in 2016 Pass 76,000; Deaths Top 400 (IOM, link):

"IOM estimates that over 76,000 migrants and refugees have arrived in Europe by sea through the first six weeks of 2016. The daily average of nearly 2,000 arrivals is nearly ten times the daily average of a year ago.

Through 8 February, IOM has recorded 409 fatalities on Mediterranean routes: 319 of the dead or missing were on the Eastern Mediterranean route connecting Turkey to Greece and 90 on the Central Mediterranean route between North Africa and Italy.

During the same period in 2015, only 69 migrants and refugees died or went missing in the whole Mediterranean."

News (9.2.16)

Greece: Rush to get hot spots ready meets more resistance (ekathimerini.com, link): "Defense Minister Panos Kammenos vowed Monday that Greece would comply with European Union demands and have more refugee hot spots ready next week despite growing resistance to such projects on Kos and in other parts of Greece.... The army has met considerable local resistance on Kos. Kammenos blamed local Mayor Giorgos Kyritsis and 70 to 80 locals. He accused them of representing interests that work with far-right organizations that seek to exploit migrants and, as such, are against the creation of the camps...

Sweden arrests 14 people suspected of planning attacks on refugees (dailysabah.com, link): "Police in Sweden on Tuesday arrested 14 people suspected of planning attacks on refugees, local media reported. The suspects were detained in Nynashamn, a town around 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Stockholm, on charges of preparing and inciting assaults and arson, the Aftonbladet newspaper said."

Germany: Legal experts cast doubt on new German asylum measures (euractiv, link): "Berlin remains divided over the new asylum package for refugees, with the issue of family reunification continuing to split opinion. EurActiv Germany reports. Very few countries around the world enshrine the right to asylum in its constitution, yet Germany does. However, this right is set to be limited more and more. The ruling parties of Germany want to impose stricter laws such as deporting convicted foreigners and to only admit certain people into the country."

Turkey-EU: Turkish envoy: The EU should not tell us to open our borders when it is closing its own (euractiv, link): "EXCLUSIVE / The refugee crisis can only be solved if the international community finds a solution to the Syrian crisis, which has become an international civil war, said Turkish Ambassador Selim Yenel, in an interview with EurActiv."

Frontex chief: Turkey should make life more difficult for the human-traffickers (New Europe, link): "Executive Director of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, gave an interview to German magazine Spiegel on February 3, saying that the Turkish government is not doing enough to limit the refugee influx

Germany: Slim asylum chances for 40 percent of refugees in Germany: report (DW, link): "The number of Syrians coming to the EU from Turkey has decreased considerably in January, according to a German newspaper. More Iraqis and Afghans are fleeing to the bloc, but have slim chances of receiving asylum."

Frontex: Invitation for Industry and Academia (Frontex, link): "Workshop on projects/ideas for developing border security products/technologies/solutions: research and development projects aimed at developing new products, technologies, solutions for border security and using financial sources other than EU financing (e.g. Industrys/Academias own funds). The objective of the workshop is to continue the bridging endeavours, initiated by Frontex, between the border guard community and the evolving world of research and development and to contribute to border security solutions with end users feedback."

Sharp condemnation of Danish asylum laws (link): " GUE / NGL works for a more cohesive refugee policy in the EU. Here from a delegation trip in the group to a refugee camp in Calais in France last month.... The Danish government's new asylum tightening is clearly Convention unconstitutional, says the People's Movement against the EU group in the EU parliament in a single protest.

Czech Republic: Attackers set refugee center on fire in Prague hours after anti-Islam rally (dailysabah.com, link)

Greece: Interior Minister Kouroumblis: Some EU countries have an inappropriate and irresponsible attitude (ANAmpa, link)

: ""We rescued 130,000 people that were in the waters," he underlined adding that Greece had to offer shelter and transport to these people."They had promised to give us 200 identification machines and they have sent us only 100 and voices wanting Greece out of the Schengen zone continue to exist in Europe," he noted while referring to the islanders he said that they should be awarded the Nobel prize because they "saved Europe's dignity.""


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (8.2.16)

EU: From Dublin to Athens: A Plea for a Radical Rethinking of the Allocation of Jurisdiction in Asylum Procedures (pdf) by Marcello Di Filippo, International Institute of Humanitarian Law: "The so called refugee crisis of 2015 had several effects, among which the definitive demonstration of the unsustainability of the Dublin system and the need of a radical change in the modalities of allocation of the competence for the exam of asylum claims in the EU. The same credibility of the EU is at stake, as well as the capacities of national governments to manage the relevant flows reaching the Schengen area.

This Policy Brief provides sound arguments both for supporting the demand for a new legal framework, and for the determination of new criteria which combines fairness, realism, solidarity, cooperation. A quota approach would be combined with a genuine link approach, thus trying to find a proper balance between the States interests and the point of view (and related behaviors) of asylum seekers, and also between the objections of human rights defenders and the concerns of European public opinion."

News (8.2.16)

At least 33 refugees die as boats carrying them sink off Turkeys Aegean coast (Daily Sabah, link): "At least 33 refugees have died on Monday when two boats carrying them capsized off Izmir, and Altinoluk coasts as Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel is in Turkey to discuss the ongoing crisis with Turkish officials."

EU urges Turkey to open its borders to Syrians fleeing war-torn Aleppo (The Guardian, link): "The European Union has urged Turkey to open its borders to thousands of Syrians fleeing an onslaught by government forces and intense Russian airstrikes.

Turkey kept its Oncupinar border crossing closed on Saturday despite a significant increase in the number of arrivals to the European gateway in the past 48 hours.

As many as 70,000 people are expected to head for the border in the coming days, said Suleyman Tapsiz, governor of Turkeys Kilis border province. There are already between 30,000 and 35,000 displaced Syrians on the Syrian side of the border being cared for by Turkey. Aid workers said the refugees were being directed to nearby camps."

FRANCE-UK: David Cameron says Calais refugee camps could move to Kent after EU exit (The Independent, link): "David Cameron has been accused of scaremongering about the impact of Britain leaving the EU on immigration to the UK.

The Prime Minister is to warn that exiting the bloc could cause a special arrangement where British border staff are allowed to check passports in Calais instead of Dover to be scrapped.

He is expected to say that such a change could cause refugee and migrant camps like the Calais Jungle to South East England."

FYROM Raises Second Wire Fence on Border with Greece (Greek Reporter, link): "The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is raising a second wire fence on its border with Greece, in the neutral zone between Idomeni and Gevgelija.

This is a measure along the European Unions efforts for stricter control of the migrant inflow towards central and northern Europe.

On Saturday the FYROM army started cleaning the area and raising a second barbed wire fence parallel to the existing one on the neutral zone in the border crossing point between Idomeni and Gevgelija."

Greece to have refugee registration centers open by Feb. 15 deadline (Daily Sabah, link): "Greece said on Monday it would have migrant registration centers running by next week, under pressure from EU partners threatening to sideline it from passport-free travel unless it does more to contain refugees.

European Union interior ministers have urged Athens to do more to control the influx of migrants, some threatening exclusion from the Schengen zone as the crisis increasingly divides bloc members."

GREECE: Brussels and Berlin Plan to Send Armed Forces to Greek-FYROM Border (Greek Reporter, link): "While struggling to handle the refugee crisis, the EU is considering imposing new and tougher measures in order to stop the refugee flow towards the rest of Europe. According to the Financial Times, the plan to strengthen the borders between Greece and FYROM is gaining popularity and has been discussed as an effective solution both in Brussels, Berlin and within the EU."

Migrants deported' by Bulgaria rescued from freezing to death (Daily Sabah, link): " Villagers and security forces rescued 31 Syrian migrants, including 13 children, near Turkey's border with Bulgaria early Friday. Refugees were stranded in an area amid heavy rainfall and chilling temperatures when one of them managed to reach a nearby village to ask for help for those who could not advance due to heavy mud impeding their route."

Serbia Urges Unified Solution to Refugee Crisis (Balkan insight, link): "The world has to be united in its decisions on Syria - and Serbia will accept any European solution on the refugee issue, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic told a conference of world leaders in London dedicated to the Syrian crisis on Thursday."

Turkey and Germany agree on plan to ease refugee crisis (Al Jazeera, link): "Turkey and Germany have agreed on a set of measures to deal with the Syrian refugee crisis, including a joint diplomatic initiative aiming to halt attacks against Aleppo, Syria's largest city.

On Monday in Ankara, officials from the two countries added that they would push to curb illegal migration.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was in the Turkish capital for talks on how to reduce the influx of refugees into Europe, said after discussions with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu that she was "not just appalled but horrified" by the suffering caused by Russian bombing in Syria."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (6-7.2.16)
EU: PERMANENT RELOCATION PROPOSAL - LATEST DRAFT: Council of the European Union: Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a crisis relocation mechanism and amending Regulation (EU) No 604/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third country national or a stateless person (pdf) 44 Member State's positions.

"During previous discussions, a number of delegations underlined their wish for a thorough assessment of the functioning of the emergency relocation schemes and stressed the need to address the shortcomings in their implementation. Some delegations expressed their preference for linking the discussions on this proposal with the efforts which should lead to effective border controls and proper management of migratory flows and insisted on the voluntary nature of the proposed mechanism. Furthermore, several delegations were in favour of addressing this proposal as part of a broader package on asylum ("Dublin IV")."

"The following delegations have general scrutiny reservations on the text appearing in the Annex: AT, BG, EL, FI and SI.BE, CZ, EE, ES, FR, HR, HU, LT, LV, PL, PT, RO, SI and SK have general reservations on the substance of the proposal; HU and SI have also parliamentary scrutiny reservations."

Theresa May under pressure by MPs to oppose plans that could criminalise charities who help Syrian refugees (Independent on Sunday, link): "Opposition MPs urge the Home Secretary not to join EU members in outlawing a helping hand . Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is under pressure to oppose plans by EU member states that could criminalise individuals and charities who help Syrian refugees when they arrive on Greek islands.

A draft of conclusions reached last month by the Council of the European Union and later obtained by civil-liberties organisation Statewatch showed that Eurocrats could equate the smuggling of refugees with the far more serious crime of trafficking. ...

As a result, even holidaymakers who help refugees off boats might not be exempt from criminal charges on the grounds that they had provided humanitarian assistance".

Desperate EU to Criminalize Humanitarian Assistance in Greece - Leaked Docs (Sputnik News, link)

"A European Commission report, detailing a plan to criminalize volunteers rescuing refugees from drowning, has been revealed by UK civil liberties group Statewatch. The EU is desperate and is therefore making bad decisions, the groups director told Sputnik.

Statewatch, a London-based civil rights watchdog, has published a confidential report by the European Commission, which reveals the Council of Europes plans to pass a new law, criminalizing volunteers who rescue refugees, stranded off the coast of Greece, from drowning.

The new proposals would penalize NGOs, local people and volunteers -- all providing humanitarian assistance to refugees arriving in the EU - and would remove their exemption from being considered people smugglers.

"The EU has failed, theyre desperate. Theyre trying to take over operations [in Greece] to take control of everything," Tony Bunyan told Sputnik.

"Ive been doing this for 25 years and have never seen anything like it. The EU is in a complete mess. They failed to respond quickly to what happened last spring. The volunteers and smaller NGOs have been helping refugees since the crisis began. Where was the EU then? They only tuned up in November [2015] and by that time already 700,000 people had landed in Greece.""

and see: Rescuing refugees from drowning will be criminalized under new EU law activists (RT, link): " A petition has been launched calling on EU leaders to scrap plans that would criminalize those who rescue migrants and refugees arriving on the Greek islands as part of a push to secure the border between Turkey and Greece. London-based civil liberties watchdog Statewatch has released the confidential Council of the EU report detailing the plan, which was outlined in talks between EU ministers in Amsterdam late last month."

GREECE: Hot spot work intensifies as Greece agrees to recognize Turkey as safe country (ekathimerini.com, link)

"Greek authorities agreed on Friday to recognize Turkey as a safe third country, which means migrants for whom Turkey is a country of transit, not of origin, can be returned there. The decision was announced after a meeting in Athens between Greek Interior Minister Panayiotis Kouroublis and his French and German counterparts, Bernard Cazeneuve and Thomas de Maiziere... He added that Germany is sending 100 police officers and two coast guard vessels to Greece...

As of yesterday, 94 prefabricated structures had been delivered to the site in Chios and 87 on Leros. Construction work was under way on Samos, where an old army firing range is being converted. On Kos, riot police who had been sent to the island from Athens fired tear gas to deter some 100 locals who tried to force their way into a disused army camp that is being turned into a hot spot.

European Union sources told Kathimerini they are hopeful that at least three of the five centers will be ready in the next few days given that the army is now coordinating the work..."

The EU, Turkey and the Refugee Crisis: What could possibly go wrong? (EU Law Analysis, link)

" The key non-EU country in the EUs ongoing refugee crisis is Turkey: the host of over 2 million Syrian refugees, and a transit country for many asylum-seekers. An increasing number of them have been making the journey from Turkey to the Greek islands, leading to a significant rise in the number of would-be asylum-seekers in the EU over the last year. Tragically, many have died making this crossing....

the Samsom Plan proposing the systematic return of all asylum seekers from Greece to Turkey in exchange for increased refugee resettlement in Europe, appears to be not only very difficult to implement (due to both legal and practical obstacles), but also based on the doubtful presumption that Turkey may be (soon) considered a safe third country for refugees and asylum-seekers.

Furthermore, it is unfortunate that the EU and Turkey did not agree to fully apply the Geneva Convention for Turkey, and that there are no mechanisms of accountability in place for the EU institutions to report either in general upon Turkeys compliance with international human rights standards or in particular to explain exactly how the EUs money is being spent."

See also: Common Understanding establishing a Governance and Conditionality Framework for the Refugee Facility for Turkey, the "Facility", Hereinafter referred to as "the Common Understanding" between EU Member States (hereinafter the "Member States") and The European Commission (hereinafter the "Commission") (pdf) There is no mention of ensuring human rights protection.

News (6-7.2.16)

Greece-Macedonia: EU ministers want to buttress borders to stem refugee flow (ekathimerini.com, link): "European Union nations anxious to stem the flow of asylum-seekers coming through the Balkans are increasingly considering sending more help to non-member Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as a better way to protect European borders instead of relying on EU member Greece."

Greece is overcoming hot spot delays, says EU official (ekathimerini.com, link): "A European Union official says Greece is making "rapid progress" in overcoming delays in building screening centers for migrants and refugees on islands facing Turkey, after involving the armed forces in the effort.... He said Friday that armed forces involvement had improved preparations to build screening centers, or "hot spots," on Greek islands and transit camps on the mainland.Greece is facing mounting European pressure to complete the screening centers on four islands this month, with the project already three months behind schedule."

Germany looks at new approaches for processing refugees (DW, link): "Germany has 770,000 unprocessed asylum applications. How can the stack be reduced? The responsible authorities have devised an ambitious plan to ensure that everything goes faster, DW's Kay-Alexander Scholz writes."

Daily limit on refugees still not enough for Austrians (euractiv, link): "Austria is now nearly in a position to introduce its daily limit on numbers. But for many Austrians, it does not go far enough."

Austria dodges asylum claims by dumping migrant fingerprints (DW, link): "Austria says it doesn't have legal authority to keep fingerprints from migrants passing through the country. Critics charge the government is skirting responsibility. Alison Langley reports from Vienna."

Deter hate-speech, urges Germany's Tillich (DW, link): "German Saxony state premier Stanislav Tillich says far-right Pegida movement leaders who call for violence against foreigners should be prosecuted. Europe is bracing for far-right rallies and counter-demonstrations. "

Greece: PM Tsipras meets with Interior Ministers of France and Germany (ANAmpa, link): "France will contribute 60 police officers to Frontex, who will come to Greece, and also use 18 expert staff specialising in identifying fake documents, to assist Greek authorities."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (5.2.16)
Turkish PM warns of new wave of refugees from Syria (Hurriyet, link): "Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has warned of a new wave of Syrian refugees totaling as many as 80,000 after people began to move toward Turkey due to increased airstrikes in the countrys northwest.

Some 10,000 new refugees are waiting at Turkeys border [with Syria] due to the airstrikes in Aleppo. Some 60,000 to 70,000 people, who are in camps north of Aleppo, are moving toward Turkey, said Davutoglu during a donor conference entitled Supporting Syria and the region at the QEII center in central London on Feb. 4.
"

And see: Avramopoulos: Detention and removal centres are also needed (EurActiv, link): "The hotspots are there to support the process of the first arrivals through registering, identifying and fingerprinting - to know whether people will have to be relocated, or whether they should do their asylum procedure in Greece or Italy, and then either be granted asylum or be returned. Of course, during that time, people have to stay somewhere. So it is normal that we need more reception places. Greece has committed to expanding its reception places by 50,000 following the Western Balkans leaders meeting on 25 October - but detention or removal centers are also needed for those who receive the decision to return, particularly if there is a risk of absconding and if they are not willing to return voluntarily."

How to manage the migrant crisis (The Economist, link): "REFUGEES are reasonable people in desperate circumstances. Life for many of the 1m-odd asylum-seekers who have fled Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other war-torn countries for Europe in the past year has become intolerable. Europe is peaceful, rich and accessible. Most people would rather not abandon their homes and start again among strangers. But when the alternative is the threat of death from barrel-bombs and sabre-wielding fanatics, they make the only rational choice.

The flow of refugees would have been manageable if European Union countries had worked together, as Angela Merkel, Germanys chancellor, has always wished (and The Economist urged). Instead Germany and Sweden have been left to cope alone. Today their willingness to do so is exhausted. Unless Europe soon restores order, political pressure will force Mrs Merkel to clamp down unilaterally, starting a wave of border closures (see article). More worrying, the migrant crisis is feeding xenophobia and political populism. The divisive forces of right-wing nationalism have already taken hold in parts of eastern Europe. If they spread westward into Germany, France and Italy then the EU could tear itself apart."

Mediterranean Migrant Deaths Reach 374; Arrivals in Greece Top 68,000 in 2016 (IOM, link):

"OM estimates that Mediterranean migrant and refugee arrivals in Italy and Greece reached 74,676 through February 4th. The first four days of February saw 7,483 arrivalssurpassing the 6,834 recorded for the entire month of February in 2015."

An estimated total of 374 people have dead/missing attempting to reach Europe across the Mediterranean so far this year (between 1 January and 4 February).

News (5.2.16)

CROATIA: Anti-trafficking experts worried by high numbers of unaccompanied child refugees missing in Croatia (Council of Europe, link):

"Anti-trafficking experts are worried by evidence of high numbers of unaccompanied child refugees missing in Croatia. With recent reports of high numbers of unaccompanied child refugees gone missing, the identification of child victims has become a priority across Europe, said Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland, following the publication of a new report by the Council of Europes Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA). The GRETA report welcomes Croatias Strategy for Combatting Poverty and Social Exclusion, as a root causes contribution to the prevention human trafficking."

The Migrant Crisis: No End in Sight (The New York Times, link): "The refugees keep coming.- Forced from their homes by war and economic deprivation, tens of thousands of migrants made the perilous journey to Europe last month. These asylum seekers, the latest surge in a great tide of human movement, have braved winter weather, stormy seas and closed borders in their escape from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa. On Thursday in London, the European Union and international donors are expected to pledge to increase their aid to Syrians displaced by war. The toll, whether measured in lives or in dollars, is staggering."

Disappointed With Europe, Thousands of Iraqi Migrants Return Home (The New York Times, link): "Last year, beckoned by news reports of easy passage to Europe through Turkey, tens of thousands of Iraqis joined Syrians, Africans and Afghans in the great migrant wave to the Continent. Now, thousands of Iraqis are coming home. Many say they arrived in Europe with unrealistic expectations for quick success. Some also say the warm reception they received from Europeans last summer gave way to suspicion after the Paris terrorist attacks carried out by the Islamic State in November."

EU silent over impact of refugees on national budgets (EurActiv, link): "The cost of hosting refugees and asylum seekers is likely to have a big impact on public finances, but the EU is still unable to give a figure for individual member states, Economic and Financial Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici has acknowledged."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (4.2.16)
European Commission: State of Play: Measures to Address the Refugee Crisis (1.2.16, pdf).

Little change but see: Hotspots: State of Play of Hotspot capacity (pdf): Biggest change of the week is the build up of hotspot staff and capacity in Greece (Italy unchanged): In Lesvos reception capacity up from 1,480 to 2,709 and Frontex officials up from 178 to 184. In Chios reception capacity up from 110 to 2,250 and Frontex from 93 to 99. In Samos reception capacity up from 250 to 650 and Frontex from 40 to 53. Leros Frontex up from 29 to 31 and on Kos capacity up from 0 to 290 and Frontex up from 41 to 54 officials.

See: Statewatch Compilation: Commission statistics ongoing since September 2015: State of Play: Measures to Address the Refugee Crisis

UN experts urge Cyprus to address migrant detention conditions, improve overall monitoring (UN News Centre, link):

Cyprus has seen many positive developments concerning the treatment of people in detention, but still faces several challenges, particularly regarding the independent monitoring of places of detention and the treatment of migrants, the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture said today after visiting the country.

Press release, link):

We were very pleased to have visited Cyprus and take note of improvements. But the situation of those in immigration detention centres requires careful attention. It is so important to ensure that such detention is only resorted to when it is strictly necessary. The conditions of detention should reflect the fact that such places are not prisons and those detained are not prisoners, said Malcolm Evans, the SPT Chair and head of the four-member delegation to Cyprus....

We are particularly concerned that the National Preventive Mechanism for torture prevention, which is a part of the Ombudsman's office, should be much better resourced financially and have its legal powers reviewed so that it can continue and expand its good work. It currently does not have the capacity to work as the Optional Protocol requires."

Hotspots and Relocation Schemes: the right therapy for the Common European Asylum System? (eumigrationlawblog.eu): "While no one denies that the CEAS and Schengen urgently need therapy, it is worth asking whether the EU and its Member States are selecting the right one. I will offer my reflections on this after recalling the context in which hotspots and relocations schemes have been devised, their essential features, and the first experiences made to-date with their implementation."

The Elephant in the Room - Islam and the Crisis of Liberal Values in Europe (Foreign Affairs, link) By Alexander Betts

"Europe is still struggling to cope with a massive influx of refugees, with over a million asylum seekers arriving across the Mediterranean Sea. Nearly all of them are Muslims. This fact has shaped public and political opinion but has rarely been openly and honestly discussed. Can a Europe of 28 member states share responsibility for a smaller number of refugees than is currently in Lebanon alone? Of course it can. In fact, most European countries need the labor. "

News (4.2.16)

Turkish PM warns of new wave of refugees from Syria (hurriyetdailynews.com): "Close to 100,000 Syrian refugees could soon be on their way to Turkeys border, PM Davutoglu warns in a plea to the world"

The EU is skirting around immigration issues without tackling the real problem (tvm, mt, link)

Balkan route countries to bar migrants without documents (euobserver, link): "Police officials from Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia, countries on the Balkan migration route, agreed Wednesday to deny entry to people without valid documents or identification papers, including fakes, and to coordinate the registration of asylum seekers, in an effort to filter out economic migrants."

Germany strikes North Africa migrant deal (euobserver, link): "Germany is set to invest millions in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia as part of a deal involving the return of rejected asylum seekers and other migrants, reports Spiegel. The money is earmarked for job creation and training schemes. Germany deemed its existing readmission agreements with Algeria and Morocco ineffective."

NORWAY-EU: Solberg: Schengen needs to be rescued (BBC News, link): "The Schengen Agreement is not dead but it needs to be "rescued" if it is going to continue, the Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg has told BBC HARDtalk. "We need to have a system of redistribution and common solidarity on the amount of refugees that come," she said"

Greek bus drivers, migrants block highway over border impasse (ekathimerini.com, link): "Greek bus drivers and migrant passengers seeking to reach western Europe blocked traffic on the main highway running north to Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on Thursday, tempers fraying over the slow pace of passage over the border. At least 80 buses have been backed up short of Greece's northern border with FYROM for several days." and Large number of refugees wait at Greece-Fyrom crossing point (ANAmpa, link): "According to the police, there are around 2,500 refugees at the camp while 4,500 have already disembarked from the 90 buses that have stopped at a gas station at Polykastro."

Disappointed by Austria, migrants go home (DW, link): "Missing their families, frustrated by difficulties and fed up with living in stadiums with hundreds of others, migrants are leaving Austria in record numbers and returning home. Alison Langley reports from Vienna."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (3.2.16)
Greek military to oversee response to refugee crisis (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Defense Minister Panos Kammenos on Tuesday heralded the creation of a central body to oversee and improve Greeces response to the migration and refugee crisis and ensure the country safeguards its position in the Schengen passport-free area, noting that the new body will be led by a senior military official.

Greeces military is to have the oversight of the Central Coordinating Body for the Management of Migration until the Migration Ministry and the Hellenic Police gain the necessary know-how and experience to tackle the problem independently, Kammenos indicated at Tuesdays press conference....

The center, which is to be operational by February 15, is to be based at the Defense Ministry headquarters and coordinate with the Hellenic Police, Coast Guard, Migration Ministry and nongovernmental organizations working with migrants and refugees.

The aim is to increase the efficiency of transferring migrants from the islands to the mainland, to improve the provision of food as well as medical and healthcare to migrants, and to monitor the creation of five screening centers, or hot spots, for migrants on the eastern Aegean islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros....

The screening and relocation centers are to operate in a similar way to the central body, under a local military official who is to coordinate with police and coast guard officers."

See also: Greece pledges to speed up delivery of migrant 'hotspot' centers (Reuters, link)

EU: European Commission: Commission adopts Schengen Evaluation Report on Greece and proposes recommendations to address deficiencies in external border management (Press release, pdf)

"The recommendations seek to ensure that Greece applies all Schengen rules related to management of external border correctly and effectively. Recommendations are made in a number of areas such as the improvement of the registration procedures, including ensuring a sufficient number of staff and fingerprint scanners for registration and verification of migrants and their travel documents against SIS, Interpol and national databases. Greece should provide the necessary facilities for accommodation during the registration process and launch return procedures for irregular migrants who are not seeking asylum and who are not in need of international protection. Border surveillance should be improved, including the establishment of a risk analysis system and increased training of border guards.

Improvements should also be made to infrastructure and equipment at the border crossing points. In order to ensure compliance with these recommendations, the Commission may, in addition, recommend that Greece takes certain specific measures under Article 19a of the Schengen Borders Code, given the serious deficiencies noted in the Schengen Evaluation Report."

See also: Eighth biannual report on the functioning of the Schengen area: 1 May - 10 December 2015 (pdf)

Reports from Lesvos

Eric Kempson: We Should Be United! 02/02/2016 (youtube link) - new sea operation started with large boats picking up refugees at sea. He has been told will last for 10 days.

And other reports that big ships are patrolling the coast then off-loading refugees at Moria processing centre. Refugees must buy not only their own ferry ticket to Athens, but the bus/taxi from Moria (processing centre) to Mytilini.

The IOM reports that arrivals in 2016 up to 2 February total: 67,193, to Greece: 62,193, to Italy 5,000. 368 dead/missing and UNHCR reports: 61,746 arrivals with 61,746 to Greece, 5,320 to Italy. 363 dead/missing. 78% of all arrivals since January 2015 have been from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

EU court: Irregular migrants should not be jailed (politico, link): "EU countries should not be able to imprison migrants who are staying in Europe without the necessary documentation, a senior Union lawyer said in a new opinion released Tuesday.... The case under scrutiny by the court concerns Sélina Affum, a Ghanaian national, who tried to take the Channel Tunnel on a journey from Ghent to London while using someone elses passport in 2013. She was caught at the Belgian-French border and placed in the custody of French authorities.According to French law, an irregular migrant can be imprisoned for up to one year. This law could be overturned by the European Court of Justices ruling. "

EU approves Turkey migration fund as Italy drops objections (hurriyetdailynews.com, link): "European Union countries approved on Feb. 3 funds for Turkey to help refugees and migrants in the country in exchange for Ankara ensuring fewer of them venture out towards Europe . All 28 EU countries signed off on the proposal at a meeting in Brussels on Feb. 3 after Italy dropped its opposition to the plan, which was first approved in November."

and see: EU-Turkey Cooperation: Commission welcomes Member State agreement on Refugee Facility for Turkey (Press release, pdf) and Factsheet: EU support in response to the Syrian crisis (pdf)

News (3.2.16)

Migrants set out on foot along Greek highway to FYROM (ekathimerini.com, link): "Hundreds of migrants set out on foot along a major north-south highway in Greece on Tuesday, heading north for Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) after being stranded for days by farmer and taxi driver protests on either side of the frontier. At least 80 buses packed with migrants, many of them women and children fleeing the war in Syria, were backed up 10 km (6.2 miles) short of Greece's border with FYROM, halted by police.... The border was effectively closed for migrants but regular car traffic had been flowing with minor disruption. Then, with patience running out, hundreds of migrants disembarked from their stationary buses and blocked the road, sitting on the tarmac and chanting Macedonia, Macedonia!

European Parliament: MEPs migration debate turns into stress test of European values (euractiv, link): "We are on a stress test of our European values, Bert Koenders, Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister admitted in the European Parliament yesterday (2 February), following a 5-hour debate on the ongoing migration crisis, in which more than 150 statements were made.... Lawmakers expressed views ranging from welcoming refugees to closing the EUs borders, kicking Greece out of the EUs borderless Schengen area, and punishing Central European EU members for being reluctant to share the refugee burden by depriving them of EU funding. UKIP MEPs said the developments illustrated that it was a good occasion for the UK to leave the EU."

A third of migrants sailing to Greece are children: UNICEF (euractiv, link): "Children now make up over a third of the migrants making the perilous sea crossing from Turkey to Greece, the UN has said, as two more babies drowned off Europe's shores. For the first time since the start of the migrant crisis in Europe, there are also now more women and children crossing the border from Greece to Macedonia than adult males, according to UN children's agency UNICEF, in a report on Tuesday (2 February)."

France bans anti-migrant Pegida march in Calais (The Local.fr, link): "The French government has banned public demonstrations in Calais days before the anti-Islam group Pegida had planned to march through the town."

Austria: Coalition parties fight over asylum benefits (The Local.at, link): "Austria's conservative Peoples Party (ÖVP) is calling for nationwide reductions in welfare benefits to immigrants, but the Social Democrats (SPÖ) have said any cuts would be unconstitutional."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (2.2.16)
Statewatch Analysis: ECtHR/Italy: Khlaifa judgment reveals illegal detention and collective expulsion practices in Italys treatment of Tunisians in 2011: Commissions plans for readmission agreements and summary returns contravene the ECHR (pdf) by Yasha Maccanico:

This judgment outlaws much of what is being planned and implemented in the context of the EU's migration plans and especially the so-called "hotspot" approach.

The court's decision that the deportation of Tunisians amounted to a violation of Art. 4 of the 4th protocol to the ECHR and has important repercussions on the Commission's plans because readmission agreements circumvent the need for individual examination of the positions of people from certain nationalities.

What the judgment has described as a "collective refoulement" lacking the necessary safeguards is the process which is being introduced in hotspots whereby nationality appears to be the key management principle for dealing with migrants.

Further, the idea appears to be that if an agreement is in place with a non-EU state there is no need for further formalities concerning nationals of a given country.

The recent deal between Italy and Gambia mentioned in the Italian hotspots Progress report is an example of this, and it states that operative protocols are preferable to either treaties or readmission agreements in relation to the principle of "effectiveness", which shows that there is increasing intolerance of any formal limits or regulatory frameworks to mass deportations.

PETITION: CRIMINALISING NGOs and volunteers: Petitioning Council of the European Union - Scrap plans to criminalise refugee rescue operations (change.org, link) based on: Statewatch News story: Refugee crisis: Council proposals on migrant smuggling would criminalise humanitarian assistance by civil society, local people and volunteers - Greece: NGOs and volunteers have to "register" with the police and be vetted

News (2.2.16)

Europes refugee story has hardly begun by Paul Mason (Guardian, link) "With a million new refugees expected in Europe this year, Greece faces a diplomatic onslaught and an existential crisis... roblems are sideshows compared with the big, existential issues that a second summer of uncontrolled migration into Greece would bring.... the next million refugees could only be stopped by a policy of pushback that would break all humanitarian law."

Greece: Nine migrants, including two babies, drown en route to Greece (ekathimerini.com, link): "The bodies of nine people, including two babies, were found drowned off the coast of western Turkey on Tuesday, after a boat carrying refugees and migrants to Greece partly capsized, the Turkish coast guard said in a statement."

Syria fund to help keep refugees in Macedonia and Serbia (euractiv, link): "The Syria trust fund, used to help Syrian refugees and overstretched host communities in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq, will also be used to help keep in place the migrants who made it to Macedonia and Serbia, an EU official said on Monday (1 February)."

German AfD party reviled over 'shoot refugees' comments (euobserver, link): "German anti-immigrant and eurosceptic party Alternative for Germany (AfD) has found itself cornered over comments on shooting refugees who try to cross the border illegally."

Germany set to house refugees in hotels long-term (euractiv, link): "Due to a lack of space, Berlin is looking at alternative means of housing refugees, with German media reporting that Angela Merkels government is negotiating a multi-year contract worth some ¬600 million with a hotel chain."

Safe countries of origin? (DW, link): "Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia will soon be declared as safe countries of origin. As a consequence, people from those countries will basically have no right to asylum in Germany anymore a controversial decision."

Finnish PM drops promise to let refugees use his home (Guardian, link): "Juha Sipila, who vowed in September to open his second home to needy refugees, cites heavy publicity and security concerns for reversal"

Austria introduces fast-track repatriation for immigrants (New Europe, link): "Austrias Interior Minister, Johanna Mikl-Leitner, announced on Saturday a plan for the deportation of 50,000 asylum seekers over three years, bringing down the refugees in the country to 37,500, down from 90,000 in 2015,"

EU police issue warning on lost child refugees (euobserver, liknk): "More than 10,000 child refugees are missing in the EU, with authorities fearing criminal gangs may be exploiting a large number for sex work and slave labour. The EU's police agency Europol on Sunday (31 January) told British newspaper The Observer that thousands vanished after having been registered with state authorities."

Swedish police halt planned anti-migrant rampage (euobserver, link): "Sweden's uneasiness with the migrant crisis reached a new level over the weekend after dozens of men were stopped by the police Friday night (29 January) in Stockholm as they planned to attack young migrants.About 100 men dressed in black gathered on Sergels Torg, a square near the capital's main train station, and handed out leaflets inciting people to attack migrants."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (1.2.16)
Europe scales up plans to control migration (Irish Examiner, link): "As drownings in the Mediterranean continue and winter grips the perilous routes refugees are beating towards Europe, EU leaders remain divided over how to deal with the largest movement of people since the Second World War.

At the heart of the political debate are quotas, border controls, and controversial plans, announced by the European Commission in December, for a new European border and coastguard agency.

Amid a climate of fear following the Paris attacks, the commission presented an ambitious proposal, aimed at securing the EUs borders& while safeguarding the principle of free movement of persons."

Refugees and migrants can help build inclusive European societies (New Europe, link): "In 2016, let us embrace the migrants fleeing war, torture and abject misery to seek sanctuary and refuge in Europe. The distraught faces of families who have survived the treacherous sea passage to reach safety tell us what we need to know; no-one risks their life and the lives of their children unless they sense death at their heels.

If we fail to respond, we deny our humanity, our common values. We have a duty to provide sanctuary for those seeking asylum. And, when they arrive, as the Council of Europes Secretary General has frequently reminded our 47 Member States, migrants have the same human rights as native citizens. In return, they too must respect the human rights of others and Europes laws. This applies, for example, to the alleged mass sexual attacks on women, in Cologne, Sweden and elsewhere, that are currently in the news."

News (1.2.16)

18 Breathtaking Photos That Try To Capture What Its Like To Be Stateless (Buzzfeed, link): "Photographer Greg Constantine has spent the better part of a decade documenting the lives of stateless people all over the world. His photographs can be seen in a stunning photo book, Nowhere People, in which he examines the effects of statelessness on individuals and society. The project is far-reaching, exploring what it means to be stateless across Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia."

10,000 refugee children are missing, says Europol (The Guardian, link): "At least 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees have disappeared after arriving in Europe, according to the EUs criminal intelligence agency. Many are feared to have fallen into the hands of organised trafficking syndicates.

In the first attempt by law enforcement agencies to quantify one of the most worrying aspects of the migrant crisis, Europols chief of staff told the Observer that thousands of vulnerable minors had vanished after registering with state authorities."

Austria says it plans to step up deportations of migrants (Reuters, link): " Austria will step up deportations of migrants and is adding Morocco, Algeria and other states to a list of countries it deems safe, enabling it to send people back there more quickly, government ministries said on Sunday. (...)

Now the government has decided to carry out at least 50,000 deportations in the same period, according to a summary of an agreement between the interior, defence and integration ministries published on Sunday."

ECRE strongly opposes legitimising push-backs by declaring Turkey a "safe third country" (ECRE, link): "ECRE is concerned about the Dutch governments proposal to return all those arriving in Greece back to Turkey without access to asylum procedures, in exchange for a large scale resettlement programme. While the concrete modalities remain unclear, a key feature of the plan would reportedly be based on designating Turkey a safe third country."


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

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