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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"

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Archives: March 2018


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (26.3-2.4.18)
Italy summons ambassador in diplomatic row after French police cross border to test migrant for drugs - Foreign ministry describes behaviour as 'unacceptable' and warns future cooperation has been undermined (Independent,link):

"Italy summoned the French ambassador for consultations on Saturday after armed French border patrol agents used an Italian train station to force a Nigerian train passenger to provide a urine sample for a drug test.

France said it had a right to use the facility at the Bardonecchia train station west of Turin, citing a 1990 agreement.

But Italy shot back, saying just this month it had told French customs authorities that the station room was now off limits because a humanitarian aid group was there to provide care and counselling for migrants seeking to make the dangerous Alpine crossing into France."

And: French armed officers spark Italy migrant row (BBC News, link): "French border agents entered - armed - the clinic run in Bardonecchia, forcing a migrant to a urine test and intimidating our doctor and the mediators and lawyers," the medical organisation which operates a clinic at the premises, Rainbow for Africa, said."

Migration control must be at heart of next EU-Africa pact, says EU (EurActiv, link):

"The EU will put migration and security at the heart of its agenda in talks on a successor to the Cotonou Agreement with African, Caribbean and Pacific nations (ACP), a leading EU official said on Monday (26 March).

“The EU’s new partnership with Africa must do more with migration [policy]. We must partner with Africa to fight trafficking and migrant smuggling,” said Koen Vervaeke, managing director for Africa at the European External Action Service (EEAS) at the Chatham House think-tank in London.

“However, we also want to improve mechanisms for the legal migration of Africans to come to Europe.”

Talks between the EU and ACP community will begin later this year on a successor to the Cotonou agreement, the EU’s 20-year Partnership Agreement with the 78 nations, which was signed in Cotonou, Benin, in 2000.

The new agreement will also address growing inward migration to African countries."

AIDA reports on Greece and Turkey (30.3.18):

"Key developments in Greece

Cases of alleged push backs at the Greek-Turkish land border of Evros have been systematically reported. According to these allegations, the Greek authorities follow a pattern of arbitrary arrest, de facto detention in police stations close to the borders, and transfer to the border, accompanied by the police, where the push backs occur."

See: Full report: Greece (pdf)

"Key developments in Turkey

Unlawful push backs along the Turkey-Syria border, as well as allegations of unlawful returns at other land borders, have continued throughout 2017. Incidents refer to the use of violence and shootings against people entering the territory."

See: Full report: Turkey (pdf)

EU: Fundamental Rights Agency: Under watchful eyes: biometrics, EU IT systems and fundamental rights (pdf)

"Sharing data with third countries infringes on the privacy of the person concerned. In the case of persons in need of international protection, it may endanger their safety or the safety of their family members. Interoperability will make access to data easier and therefore increase the risk that data are unlawfully shared with third countries."

And see: It would totally help, EU told, if data we held on migrants was accurate (The Register, link): "The European Union has been warned to sort out data quality in its IT systems that manage asylum and migration, and improve efforts to ensure people know how to exercise their personal data rights."

Are You Syrious (31.3.18, link):

FEATURE

A Change.org petition on behalf of Italian photojournalist Mauro Donato to be released from his detainment in Serbia is underway. Although the efficacy of such crowdfunded petitions is still up in the air, it is a good initiative to keep people informed about the peculiar and suspicious circumstances under which Mr. Donato was put into jail. As a reminder, the photojournalist had been near Šid, documenting and learning about the situation of people waiting there. Several weeks ago, he was arrested on the basis of robbing several refugees of the equivalent of 2.50 euro.(...)

GREECE

"According to the Aegean Boat Report,

“One boat picked up outside Mytilíni, Lesvos south, 07.00 by British Frontex Valiant.
64 people.
26 children
17 women
21 men

Two boats arrived on Samos this morning at first light, picked up by HCG outside Samos, carrying approximately 100 people.”

Samos Volunteers report on the shameful state greeting the new arrivals (...)"

UK: This Is What A Forced Deportation Sounds Like When It Goes Wrong (Huffpost, link) with a very distressing video:

"An audio recorded by HuffPost UK reveals the grim reality of that attempted forced deportation. It is a 20-minute recording of the incident, between a man, who was referred to as Abdul, and at least five border police officers."

CoE: The Commissioner intervenes before the European Court of Human Rights on cases concerning alleged pushbacks of migrants at Spain’s border (link):

"Today the Commissioner published updated written observations that he submitted to the European Court of Human Rights in two cases concerning returns of migrants from the Spanish city of Melilla to Morocco. The cases were referred to the Grand Chamber last January.

The present new observations reiterate the conclusions contained in the Commissioner’s initial submission of November 2015, but also take account of the Commissioner’s subsequent country monitoring work on the subject matter.

The Commissioner underscores that all the information available points to the existence of an established practice whereby Spain’s border guards summarily return to Morocco migrants who attempt to enter Melilla by climbing the fence which surrounds the city. “Such returns take place outside of any formal procedure and without identification of the persons concerned or assessment of their individual situation”, he writes. “This practice, to which the legal amendments adopted in Spain in March 2015 aim at providing legal underpinning, prevents the persons concerned from effectively exercising their right to seek international protection.”

And see: Third party intervention by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights (pdf)

The prosecutor’s case against the rescue ship Open Arms (openmigration.org, link):

"The rescue ship Open Arms has been seized after failing to turn over 218 migrants rescued at sea to the Libyan Coast Guard. The ship’s captain, the mission leader, and the director of the Spanish NGO have been accused of criminal conspiracy and aiding illegal immigration by the same prosecutor who had accused NGOs before the seizure of the Iuventa. We are at a critical point in the tug of war between the Italian Ministry of the Interior and those NGOs rescuing migrants out at sea. Here is what the document says, what the prosecution says, and what the NGO says." (see more)

EU-MED: Statement by 29 academics on Italy seizing the rescue boat Open Arms (pdf):

"Italy should cease its policy of promoting, directing and enforcing returns to Libya with immediate effect, and should cease prosecuting actors who deliver people rescued at sea to a place of safety; In case Italy fails to do so:

1. The UN Security Council should be seized to consider Italy’s actions a threat to international peace and security; to call upon Italy to cease its violations of international law; and to promote a coordinated approach to SAR in the Mediterranean which does not include exposing rescued persons to the risk of grave human rights violations;

2. Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, and Ethiopia – being the the African Union Member States that are currently members of the UN Security Council – whose citizens are directly affected by Italy’s violations of international law, should propose an immediate meeting of the UN Security Council to this end;

3. The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court should proprio motu open an investigation concerning high-ranking Italian authorities as to their complicity in crimes against humanity taking place in Libya;

4. Each Member State of the Council of Europe should consider filing an inter-state complaint against Italy at the European Court of Human Rights."

Greece: Concern on islands as hundreds reach Lesvos (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Authorities on the Aegean islands were on standby on Wednesday after nearly 300 migrants reached Lesvos on eight boats following several days without new arrivals from neighboring Turkey.

Apart from the 295 people who landed on Lesvos, another 50 migrants arrived on Kos."

And The Hope Project report from Lesvos: "Busy Day -Spring is starting; 34 people arrived this evening in Eftalou, everyone is safe and well. That's the 9th boat since last night!! over 350 people in 24 hours!"

Europe to extend qualifications ‘passports’ for refugees (euractiv, link):

"A Council of Europe project to help refugees to have their qualifications recognised abroad was extended to include more countries on Wednesday (28 March).

France, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada and Armenia will participate in the second phase of the three-year project, joining Greece, Norway, Italy and the United Kingdom from the first phase, the project’s chief, Sjur Bergan, announced at a news conference.

“When you flee your country, do you think of taking your diploma with you?” Bergan asked."

A Reply to Pragmatists on Mediterranean Migration: Be More Realistic (Regugees Deeply, link):

"In response to a recent proposal on how Italy can combine effective migration control with human rights, policy expert Giulia Lagana argues that the plan lacks the very political realism that it accuses the human rights community of neglecting."

Court of auditors to assess EU funds for refugees in Turkey (euobserver, link);

"The EU Court of Auditors is conducting an audit of the EU facility for refugees in Turkey, it announced Tuesday. The €3bn fund was established in January 2016 to support humanitarian and non-humanitarian activities for refugees, mainly Syrians, in Turkey. The European Commission said earlier this month that a new fund was needed at the end of the current one. Auditors will assess whether the fund is providing "effective support".

Spanish NGO boat bosses face jail for rescuing Libya refugees (euobserver, link):

"Gerard Canals, operation officer at the NGO Proactiva Open Arms, is not afraid of jail. Earlier this month, the NGO helped save more than 200 people from drowning in the central Mediterranean.

"I may go to prison but I am not really worried because we did nothing wrong," he told EUobserver on Tuesday (27 March) in Brussels.

Canals, along with the captain of the NGO rescue ship, as well as the head of the mission, face 15 year prison sentences and millions of euros in fines for their actions, according to the NGO.

The chief prosecutor of Catania, Carmelo Zuccaro, has accused them of trafficking for having refused to hand people rescued over to the Libyans."

Greece: Migrants set fires to protest transfer to reception center from hotels (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Migrants rioted at a reception center in Oinofyta, north of Attica, on Monday night, setting fires to protest their transfer there from temporary accommodation in Attica hotels."

European Union steps up its efforts to become the global leader on addressing climate-related security risks (SIPRI,link):

"On 26 February 2018 the European Union (EU) adopted its latest Council Conclusions on Climate Diplomacy following a Council Meeting of Foreign Ministers in Brussels. These Council Conclusions are much more action-oriented than those adopted previously. They illustrate not only that the EU is stepping up its efforts to become a leading global actor when it comes to fulfilling the 2016 Paris Agreement on Climate Change, but also that the EU is now placing far greater emphasis on the need to address and mitigate security risks posed by climate change. This essay discusses what is new in the recent Council Conclusions and puts these updates into context. It also discusses the key steps required for the EU to strengthen its work to mitigate climate-related security risks."

EU-Turkey Summit: Migration Agenda: EU, it’s time to act! (Euromed Rights, link):

"Ahead of this Monday’s EU-Turkey summit in Varna (Bulgaria), EuroMed Rights calls on the European leaders to reconsider the “EU-Turkey deal” on migration.

Commenting on the issue, EuroMed Rights’ President, Michel Tubiana, says:

“We are very worried on the manner the cooperation with Turkey is being hailed as a success over those last two years when it is widely known that the decline in the number of irregular EU arrivals from Turkey doesn’t mean that lives are saved but that people wishing to leave Turkey are prevented from doing so. European funding is contributing to deny people the right to access the EU through legal channels, if not supporting the running of detention sites.

We have warned against the detrimental effect of the externalisation of EU’s migration and asylum policies over the past two years. The adoption of the EU-Turkey declaration, a real ‘pact of shame’,...

Is Turkey going too far to stop migrant boats? BBC News video showing Turkish Coast Guard attacking refugees in a boat (link)

Pakistanis among top failed asylum seekers in Germany (geo.tv, link):

"The largest numbers of failed applicants who could not be repatriated because they had no papers were from India (5,743), Pakistan (4,943), Afghanistan (3,915) and Russia (3,828), publishing group Funke Mediengruppe reported, citing an interior ministry internal report.

The nationalities of nearly 3,800 applicants were registered as “unclear”, including people such as Palestinians and Kurds who did not have a country to which they could be deported, the report said."

Greece: Dead migrants found in Alexandroupoli village (ekathimerini.com, link):

"The decomposed bodies of a man and a woman were found in a building in the abandoned village of Potamos in the region of Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, on Monday morning.

Initial reports said that authorities are working on the assumption that the two people were undocumented migrants, aged between 35 and 40, and were the victims of a criminal act as investigators found signs of a struggle."

Fewer deportations from Germany due to lack of travel documents (DW, link)

"The number of migrants who cannot be deported rose in Germany in 2017. Authorities often struggle to obtain the relevant travel documents from their countries of origin, according to a report."

Refugee centres in Bulgaria have 17% occupancy - state agency head (IBNA, link):

"Occupancy in refugee centres in Bulgaria is 17 per cent, with about 850 people accommodated, the head of the State Agency for Refugees Petya Purvanova said on March 26, 2018.

Since the beginning of 2018, about 270 people have sought protection, Purvanova said in an interview with public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television.

Purvanova said that since 2013, about 62 000 foreigners seeking international protection had passed through the State Agency for Refugees' centres".

Migrants take new Balkan route through Bosnia (euractiv, link)


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (20-25.3.18)
Are You Syrious (23.3.18, link):

France

"In Calais, police again destroyed refugees’ tents near the rue des Verrotieres, blocking access roads to prevent refugees from entering the woods. Several refugees were prevented from getting their personal belongings.

This comes as Refugee Info Bus reports on refugees across Calais boycotting government-funded food distributions until the police stops taking away their clothes and shelters: “The government gives us food with one hand, and takes our tents with the other.”, 17 year-old boy from Eritrea."

Subsidiary protection granted to Afghan over intensity of violence in Kabul

"The Cour nationale du droit d’asile (CNDA), which reviews asylum appeals, has said subsidiary protection can be granted to a resident of Kaboul, given the “high intensity violence resulting from an internal armed conflict” in the city. This comes after an appeal from an Afghan originally from Kaboul, who said he feared religious persecution due to the clandestine alcohol trade of his father. The court ruled that neither this activity, nor consequent threats could be established, but argued he would be at risk in case of a deportation to Kaboul, given the level of violence in the city. To establish this level of violence, the court took into account three Taliban attacks in the city in January 2018, as well as two reports: EASO’s “Country Of Origin Information Report : Afghanistan Security Situation” and UNAMA’s “Afghanistan""

Greece: Right-wing group claims responsibility for arson attack

"Ekathimerini reports an extreme right-wing group has claimed responsibility for Thursday’s arson attack on an Afghan community center in central Athens. UNHCR condemned the attack, saying the center had been “full of people, including children, not long before” the arson."

AIDA 2017 Update Italy: obstacles in accessing asylum procedures and lack of reception capacity (link):

"The updated AIDA Country Report on Italy documents developments in the asylum procedure, reception conditions, detention of asylum seekers and content of international protection throughout 2017.

The year 2017 has been chatacterised by media, political and judicial crackdown on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) saving lives at sea, and by the implementation of cooperation agreements with African countries such as Libya, while barriers to access to the territory have also been witnessed at the northern borders of the country, against the backdrop of increasing arrivals from Austria."

Comic Relief to ditch white saviour stereotype appeals - Charity to change approach after receiving criticism for ‘poverty tourism’ campaigns (Guardian. link):

"The head of Comic Relief has halted its use of celebrities for appeals described by an aid watchdog as “poverty tourism” that reinforce white saviour stereotypes.

The departure from having white celebrities front fundraising films from Africa for Sports Relief and Red Nose Day, follows another scathing attack on Comic Relief last week."

NGO rescue boat is held by Italian authorities after refusing to cooperate with Libyan coastguard (ECRE, link):

"After a tense altercation between the Libyan coastguard and the vessel of a Spanish NGO during a rescue operation involving 218 migrants in the Mediterranean Sea on Friday, the ship concerned has been impounded in a Sicilian port, with the crew under investigation by the Italian authorities for “conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration”.

The captain of the ship, which belongs to Barcelona-based NGO Proactiva Open Arms, described how the rescue operation began in international waters 73 miles from the Libyan coast, after a general call from the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre."

Europe’s new anti-migrant strategy? Blame the rescuers - Across Europe's seas, anti-immigrant strategies have found a new target: the rescuers (Prospect, link):

"The first three months of 2017 will be remembered as the high point of an extraordinary period during which NGOs like Youth Rescue took the lead in saving the lives of migrants in the central Mediterranean. Of the nearly 180,000 people rescued between north Africa and Europe during 2016, more than a quarter were saved by NGOs: 10,000 more than either the Italian navy or coastguard. At the peak, nine humanitarian groups were operating more than a dozen search and rescue vessels of varying sizes, plus two spotter planes."

Migrant rights increasingly flouted in Europe, report says (euractiv, link);

"The European Agency for Fundamental Rights points out in a report five persistent challenges for migration to the EU, from access to territory to asylum procedures and unaccompanied children."

Italian investigation into people trafficking by Proactive Open Arms: statements from the Open Arms' captain; Amnesty; Migreurop; and Human Rights Watch

Following an incident in international waters 73 miles off the Libyan coast in which the Spanish NGO Proactive Open Arms rescued 218 people and refused to hand them over to the Libyan Coast Guard - which allegedly made death threats to the crew of the boat, the Open Arms - the rescue ship has been impounded in the port of Pozzallo, Sicily, as part of an investigation into potential "criminal cospiracy to promote illegal immigration".

Proactive Open Arms have issued a statement by Marc Reig, the captain of the boat, offering his version of events at sea. Statements denouncing the actions of the Italian authorities have also come from Amnesty International; Migreurop, EuroMed Rights and FIDH; and Human Rights Watch.

EU mulls coercion to get refugee kids' fingerprints (euobserver, link):

"Children aged 14 or over may be forced with coercion into giving up their fingerprints, under EU reforms currently being discussed. But resistance against using such force appears to be mounting within the EU parliament.(...)

Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, a centre-right Swedish MEP, told EUobserver she is trying to amend the legislative to remove coercion from the text because "violence should not be used against minors from any law enforcement authority in Europe."

See: Council position (LIMITE doc no: 6106-18 pdf) which includes: "Where a Member State's national law allows for the taking of fingerprints by force or coercion as a last resort" and the Regulation includes giving Member States the power:

"Member States shall […] introduce administrative sanctions including the possibility to use means of coercion, in accordance with their national law, for non-compliance with providing biometric data" and:

"Third-country nationals or stateless persons who are deemed to be vulnerable persons and minors should not be coerced into giving their fingerprints or facial image, except in duly justified circumstances that are permitted under national law."..[emphasis added throughout]

And see earlier document (LIMITE doc no: 5801-18,pdf) and Eurodac: Austria dismisses fundamental concerns over coercive fingerprinting of six-year-olds (Statewatch News)

Italy: Migrant Rescue Ship Impounded - Don’t Criminalize Saving Lives (HRW, link):

"(Milan) – Italy has impounded a rescue ship and threatened criminal charges against two members of its crew and the coordinator of the organization after they refused to turn migrants over to Libyan forces, fearing that they would be abused.

On March 18, 2018, an Italian prosecutor in Catania, Sicily, impounded the Spanish rescue group Proactiva’s ship Open Arms and is considering levelling charges of criminal association for the purposes of facilitating irregular migration after Proactiva refused to transfer people rescued in international waters to a Libyan patrol boat. Everyone intercepted by Libyan forces or handed over to them is taken to Libya and placed in detention"

Lesvos, Greece: Moria refugee camp is no place for people (euobserver, link):

"Lesbos is a beautiful Greek island, but the camp is hell. I invite all European politicians to visit us, to witness our hardship and our hunger; to see what it feels like when your fate is in the hands of others.

But you will also see that this situation can change: more humane migration policies can help us, they can give people here the protection and support they need and deserve.

My story is similar to those of millions of other refugees from Syria and other countries. Conflict and persecution has torn our families apart, we had to leave our belongings behind, and our beautiful cities are no longer recognisable. We fled to survive and when we reached safety we were stopped and told to wait in inhumane conditions.

That waiting has become living."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (15-19.3.18)
SPAIN: SRSG on migration and refugees: fact-finding mission to Spain (Council of Europe, link):

"The Special Representative of the Secretary General on Migration and Refugees (SRSG), Ambassador Tomáš Bocek, will be conducting a fact-finding mission to Spain from 18 to 24 March 2018.

The Special Representative will visit migrant temporary stay facilities and centres for children in the Spanish enclaves Ceuta and Melilla. He will also visit migrant detention facilities and reception centres for refugees in Murcia, Valencia and the Madrid area. The SRSG will have meetings with Spanish government officials, regional and local authorities, the Ombudsman and the Mayor of Madrid. In addition, he will meet relevant international organisations and NGOs.

While arrivals of migrants and refugees in Italy and Greece decreased in 2017 compared to the year before, the arrivals and asylum claims in Spain doubled in 2017. The challenges are important, especially in Ceuta and Melilla, where a number of children are living on the streets.

The purpose of the mission is to gather information on the situation of migrants and refugees and to elaborate proposals for concrete Council of Europe action on how to assist Spain to face the increasing migratory flows, while respecting its human rights commitments. The protection of the most vulnerable groups, in particular unaccompanied children, is one of the Special Representative’s priorities."

And see: Statewatch Analysis: Irregular migration to Spain: a state of exception (pdf) by Chris Jones

ITALY-LIBYA: Libya issues arrest warrants for over 200 alleged traffickers (Punch, link):

"Libya has issued arrest warrants for more than 200 Libyans and foreigners suspected of involvement in a smuggling network for Europe-bound migrants, the attorney general’s office said on Thursday.

“We have 205 arrest warrants for people (involved in) organising immigration operations, human trafficking, (cases) of torture, murder and rape,” said Seddik al-Sour, the director of the attorney general’s investigations office.

(...)

Sour said investigations into smuggling networks were carried out in coordination with the Italian prosecutor’s office.

Rome and Tripoli agreed in December to form a joint unit to combat smugglers and human traffickers involved in the intelligence, coastguard and justice sectors of each country."

EU-TURKEY DEAL: Manipulating the "safe third country" concept as a way to deter refugee flows - a blow to the rule of law (Refugee Support Aegean, link):

"The implementation of the EU – Turkey Statement (the “deal”) had toxic and painful consequences not only on the lives and rights of refugees arriving on the Aegean islands, but on the rule of law itself. The launch of the “deal” on 20 March 2016, also marked the launching, for the first time at the national and European level, of an experiment on the application of the “safe third country” concept to all incoming refugees on the Greek Aegean islands, aiming at their readmission to Turkey."

Hungary sentences refugee to seven years for 'terror' (Al Jazeera, link):

"A Hungarian court has convicted a Syrian refugee of "complicity in an act of terror" and given him a sentence of seven years' imprisonment and a 10-year expulsion from Hungary.

The refugee, referred to as Ahmed H in court proceedings, was also convicted on Wednesday of "illegal entry as part of a mass riot".

The charges stem from an incident on the Hungary-Serbia border in 2015, when a group of asylum-seekers tried to enter EU territory at the Roszke crossing, near the Hungarian city of Szeged."

See: Syrian man’s conviction for alleged ‘complicity in an act of terror’ is travesty of justice (Amnesty, link)

UK: Anti-deportation activists face trial under terrorism-related charges

"On Monday a group of fifteen people will appear in court in Chelmsford, charged with terrorism offences. Their crime? Blocking the take-off of a plane deporting people from Britain against their will. The maximum sentence? Life in prison."

AEGEAN: At least 16 dead as migrant boat sinks off Greek island (Reuters, link):

"Sixteen people, including at least five children, drowned on Saturday when the small boat they on capsized in the Aegean Sea, Greek coast guard officials said.

The incident occurred off Greece’s Agathonisi island, which is close to the Turkish coast. The nationality of the victims was not immediately known.

Saturday’s incident was thought to be the highest death toll of migrants trying to reach outlying Greek islands for months."

ITALY: Boat of Mediterranean rescue NGO impounded in Sicily in "promotion of illegal migration" investigation

The prosecutor of Catania (Sicily) ordered on Sunday 18 March the impounding of the boat of Spanish NGO Proactive Open Arms as part of an investigation into the potential "promotion of illegal migration" by the organisation, which late last week refused to follow the orders of the Libyan Coast Guard during a rescue operation.

Statewatch Analysis: Irregular migration to Spain: a state of exception (pdf) by Chris Jones

"In late 2017, a prison-to-be was converted into a detention centre by Spain’s interior ministry, and used to hold some 500 Algerian nationals travelling to the country by dinghy. One of them subsequently died, isolated in his cell. The majority of detainees have now been deported, and an official investigation into the death remains open, despite a preliminary verdict of suicide. The penitentiary centre, meanwhile, has now officially opened as a prison, but the episode highlights how the treatment of such situations as ‘emergencies’ – despite the fact that they have been ongoing for decades – leads to numerous and serious human rights violations."

SPAIN: Migrant street vendor's death sparks clashes in Madrid (France 24, link): "Migrants clashed with security forces in central Madrid on Thursday following the death of a Senegalese man whom they said was chased through the streets by police.

Riot police and firefighters were deployed to Lavapies, a district in the centre of the Spanish capital with a large immigrant population, as angry protesters set fire to dustbins and a motorbike, and threw stones at security forces.

Demonstrators told AFP they were protesting in support of Mmame Mbage, a street vendor in his mid-thirties from Senegal, who arrived in Spain by boat 12 years ago."

And: Thousands protest in Madrid over migrant death (YouTube, link): "Thousands of people held a peaceful protest in central Madrid on Friday (March 16) to demand better police treatment of street vendors, a day after the death of a Senegalese man sparked clashes with riot police."

Italy to temporarily close Lampedusa 'hotspot' refugee centre - Lampedusa refugee centre to be closed for 'renovation work' following protests over dire conditions and rights abuses (aljazeera.com, link):

"Rome, Italy - Italy's interior ministry decided this week to temporarily close a refugee detention centre, known as a "hotspot" in Lampedusa, a Mediterranean island between Sicily and Tunisia.

The decision follows protests and a fire that took place at the centre on March 8.

The European Union set up five hotspots each in Italy and Greece, conceived as transit centres where migrants and refugees arriving on European coasts should be formally identified, registered, and channelled on to other centres shortly afterwards - normally within 48 hours - to either wait for deportation or continue with their asylum application.(...)

"The problem is that in a place where it is inhumane to stay even for a day, people sometimes stay for months, and that includes vulnerable cases," Gennaro Santoro, a lawyer with the Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights (CILD), told Al Jazeera.

Together with the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI) and IndieWatch, the organisation had requested the closure of the centre, which saw "dramatic living conditions and systematic human rights violations"."

EU: Court of Auditors: Special report 07/2018: EU pre-accession assistance to Turkey: Only limited results so far (link):

"As a key foreign policy partner and candidate for EU membership, Turkey is the top beneficiary of EU aid outside the EU. We audited the effectiveness of 3.8 billion euro in pre-accession assistance in the areas of the rule of law, governance and human resources. We found that the assistance is generally well-designed and projects deliver outputs.

However, mainly due to a lack of political will and because the Commission has made little use of conditions, EU assistance has insufficiently addressed some fundamental needs and the sustainability of results is often at risk. We therefore consider the effectiveness of the funding to be only limited and make a number of recommendations for improvements, including better targeting of funds and increased conditionality."

See: CoA: Report (pdf)

European Commission: European Agenda on Migration: Continuous efforts needed to sustain progress

"Ahead of the March European Council, the Commission is reporting today on progress made under the European Agenda on Migration and sets out further key actions to be taken, including as set out in the Commission's roadmap from December 2017 towards a comprehensive deal on migration by June 2018."

See: Press release (pdf)

Evacuated women from Libya arrive newly-pregnant (euobserver, link):

"Traumatised women arriving in Niger to then seek further refuge in Europe and elsewhere are demanding HIV testing after facing brutal abuse in Libyan detention centres.

"All the women that we evacuate from Libya, the first thing they ask arriving in Niamey airport is not a glass of water. It is HIV testing, that is what they are asking," said Vincent Cochetel, the UN refugee special envoy to the region."

Italy Shuts Down ‘Worrying’ Migrant Hotspot - Temporary Closure Follows Protests About Degrading Conditions (HRW, link):

"Good news! The Italian Interior Ministry announced yesterday the temporary closure of an abusive migrant processing center on Lampedusa, Italy’s tiny island in the Mediterranean Sea.

The government decision came after damning reports by the Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights, the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration, and IndieWatch, which documented how some asylum seekers faced lengthy detention in the facility, known as a “hotspot,” intended only for use to house asylum seekers and other migrants for short periods while they are formally identified. It also found degrading conditions and lack of protection for women and children. One family that applied for asylum was detained in the center for seven weeks."

Greece, Lesvos: Eight police officers injured during in clashes at Lesvos refugee camp (ekathimerini.com, link):

"A riot by refugees and migrants at the Moria reception center on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos on Wednesday night led to injury of eight policemen (...)

In the last few days, three refugees and migrants threatened to commit suicide, and one of them was hospitalized after getting electrocuted while climbing up a pole."

Hotspot politics? Or, when the EU state gets real (theslow.org, link):

"What is a hotspot? Ask a random passer-by in your average city street and the by now ubiquitous wireless internet access point will most probably come up immediately in response: the hotspot is somewhere that connects you to the internet’s everywhere. Ask most European Union officials, however, and the very same word will make them sing the praises of the EU’s blueprint for a holistic approach to the migration crisis: a very special “somewhere” that may very well be on its way to become?as this editorial wishes to warn?a new kind of “everywhere”, one that commences with the decades-long European integration finally reaching a tangible form."

 


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (6-14.3.18)
Italy: Severe Human Rights Violations Found at Lampedusa Hotspot (LIberties.eu, link):

"A delegation from three human rights groups has found inhuman conditions and systematic violations of human rights inside the Lampedusa hotspot.

Dramatic living conditions and systematic violations of human rights: that’s the situation discovered just days ago inside of the Lampedusa Hotspot by a delegation of lawyers, researchers and cultural mediators from Liberties member the Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights (CILD), the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI) and Indiewatch. "

Norway set to deport teenager to country she's never visited (ABC News, link):

"As an Afghan refugee born in Iran, her education during those years consisted of reading children's books with her mother, and occasionally attending an informal class with other refugee children in someone's home. At the age of 12, Taibah had never seen the inside of a proper classroom.

She's now a senior at Thora Storm High School in Trondheim. Six years after setting foot inside a real school, she's staring at a future on the outside, again.

The Norwegian Immigration Board of Appeals has revoked Taibah's refugee status and residency permit. In a letter seen by ABC News, the Norwegian government has issued her immediate deportation orders to Afghanistan -- a country she has never been to. Taibah now has less than a week to leave the country or they will forcibly deport her."

GREECE: Three Spanish firefighters accused of trafficking people in Lesbos (euronews, link):

"Manuel Blanco, Julio Latorre, and Enrique Rodriguez, three firefighters from Seville, Spain, who have helped out in multiple refugee rescue missions on the Greek island of Lesbos, could be sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Greek authorities accuse them of smuggling refugees into the European Union.

The authorities say the firefighters “attempted to smuggle people into Greece” because “the night (they refer to) they didn’t have anyone on board,” Manuel Blanco, one of the firefighters and vice-president of the Spanish NGOs Proemaid, told Euronews."

And see: Humanitarianism: the unacceptable face of solidarity (IRR, link)

UK: Minister defends threats over Yarl's Wood hunger strike (The Guardian, link):

"The immigration minister has defended the “punitive action” of handing women on hunger strike at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre official letters warning them they could face accelerated deportation if they continue with their protest.

Caroline Nokes confirmed that the threat of accelerated deportations was part of official Home Office policy after being challenged in the Commons by the shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, who said the letters “sound like punitive deportations for women who have dared to go on hunger strike”. (...)

The Home Office letter makes clear that a continuing refusal of food or fluids “may lead to your case being accelerated and your removal from the UK taking place sooner” and states bluntly that it will not lead to removal directions being deferred or to a detainee’s release."

UK: Home Office contractors ‘cuffed detained migrants’ inside coach on fire (The Guardian, link):

"Immigration detainees whose coach caught fire as it took them to a deportation flight were handcuffed by escort staff before they were allowed to get off, in breach of Home Office rules, eight of the detainees have said.

In interviews with the Guardian, the detainees said that just minutes before the vehicle exploded and as fumes filled the cabin, one of the guards started handing out handcuffs to his colleagues.

After the cuffing process, which took several minutes, staff working for the Capita-owned security firm Tascor took the detainees off the bus, they said. They were instructed to stand about 40ft away on the M25 as the vehicle exploded."

GREECE: New: Unemployment cards for refugees in Greece (Refugee Info, link):

"The Greek employment authority, OAED, will now issue unemployment cards to all fully registered asylum-seekers and recognized refugees in Greece.

Unemployment cards give access to free public transportation and social benefits.

Until now, OAED had blocked refugees from getting unemployment cards. Only those who had an official proof of address, such as an electricity, water or mobile phone bills or a lease for an apartment under their name, could get an unemployment card.

As a result, all refugees living in camps or shelters and all homeless people in Greece were ineligible."

HUNGARY: Syrian’s ‘terrorism’ trial in Hungarian election spotlight (Politico, link):

"Just weeks before Hungary’s parliamentary election, a court is expected to rule on a case that has come to symbolize Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s anti-migrant agenda for both his supporters and opponents.

The court in the southern city of Szeged is due to give its verdict in the retrial of a Syrian man convicted of terrorism and jailed for 10 years for his role in a confrontation between police and asylum seekers on the border with Serbia in 2015."

HUNGARY: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reaffirms his view that Viktor Orban is "a racist and xenophobe"

"So yes, I did call the increasingly authoritarian – though democratically elected – Viktor Orbán a racist and xenophobe. I did not, in point of fact, compare him to 20th century dictators, because there are plenty of examples around us today of the horrors that awake when minorities are vilified or abused. And no, I will not resign "with no delay", as a letter from his Minister demanded. Because it is time to stand up to the bullies of Mr Orbán's ilk. Hatred is a combustible force; and it will not win – not in Europe; and not today.”

Are You Syrious (5.3.18, link):

ITALY: Court confirmed the push backs violate children’s rights

"The Tribunal in Nice ruled that the push back of 19 unaccompanied minors to Italy from France was unlawful. There is a list of associations both from Italy and France that collaborated for a while in order to build the case and ultimately to reach this decision. Solidarity wins!"

GERMANY: Criminalizing Humanitarian Aid in Europe - Talk and Discussion on Solidarity with volunteers

"Salam Aldeen came to Lesbos to save lives as a volunteer lifeguard. Now he needs help himself. Because he saved refugees from drowning, he faces ten years of imprisonment. On May 7, his trial will take place on Lesbos. Salam will share with us how the criminalization of rescuing refugees from distress at the sea has affected his life.

The example of Salam Aldeen’s case will be discussed with himself and other guests. What impact do European politics, the media and the general social climate have on possible convictions? How can we defend basic humanitarian values? How can those affected be helped?

These and other important questions will be discussed at a talk&panel discussion in Berlin, on April 10."

SPAIN: Push backs and pressure from the Spanish officials

"Foreigners who are detected at the border of the territorial demarcation of Ceuta or Melilla while trying to overcome the elements of border contention to cross the border irregularly may be rejected in order to prevent their illegal entry into Spain, the newly changed Spanish policy says, making it difficult to charge those officials responsible for firing bullets at refugees in the water and similar things that, organizations warn, occur constantly in the Spanish south.

Esteban Velazquez, the former head of the migration delegation of the archbishopric of Tangier in Nador, Morocco, says that he saw “around 20 or 40 people aged between 15 and 23 bleeding, with their feet and shoulders broken, their brains cracked open. Some had lost their eyes because the Spanish police (Guardia Civil) used rubber bullets until the Tarajal tragedy happened,” InfoMigrants reports."

GEORGIA: Government Tightens Regulations to Curb Illegal Migration to EU (Civil.ge, link):

"The government plans to tighten procedures for changing last names as part of its efforts to reduce the growing number of Georgian asylum seekers in the Schengen countries, and to avoid triggering the so called visa suspension mechanism.

The respective amendments bill, endorsed by the Government yesterday, restricts the right to change one’s last name to one time only, and requires the applicant to submit the request personally and validate the need for such change.

Those persons, who were deported/readmitted to Georgia less than five years ago, or who changed their last names after March 28, 2017, will be unable to change their last names, according to the draft bill.

These restrictions, however, will not apply to name change requests during marriage, divorce, child adoption, and paternity determination."

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, met the President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, on 8 March although the note released following the meeting made no explicit mention of changes to Georgian laws in order to support the implementation of the visa-free regime. See: Remarks by President Donald Tusk after his meeting with President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili (European Council, link)

Crete court reverses ruling on Baris migrant smuggling ship, acquits defendants (ekathimerini.com,link):

"A court in Iraklio, Crete, has reversed a previous decision to convict to more than 500 years in prison five crewmen of the Baris, a freighter found packed with 586 men, women and children trying to enter Europe clandestinely in 2014.

The charges against all five defendants were dropped on Monday after the court ruled that it does not have the jurisdiction to try the case since the Baris was towed to Crete after suffering engine failure in international waters on November 25, 2018.

The court said they should be tried in Kiribati, the Central Pacific island republic, whose flag the Baris was flying."

EU anti-slavery mission in Libya at risk, UN says (euobserver, link):

"International efforts to release people from Libyan detention centres to Niger have hit a deadlock, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has warned.

A senior official from the UN agency told MEPs in the European Parliament on Monday (5 March) that if more refugees and asylum seekers were not dispatched onwards from Niger to EU states, then the country may stop taking in people from Libya.

"We were advised that until more people leave Niger, we will no longer be able to evacuate additional cases from Libya," siad Karmen Sakhr, who oversees the North Africa unit at the UNHCR."

Greece: 13,000 Still Trapped on Islands As EU-Turkey Anniversary Nears, Move Asylum Seekers to Mainland Safety (HRW, link):

" Thousands of asylum seekers are trapped on the Aegean islands in deplorable conditions and without access to adequate protection and basic services, nine human rights and humanitarian organizations said today as part of the #OpenTheIslands campaign. The Greek government should act immediately to end the “containment policy” that traps asylum seekers in these conditions on the islands and move them to safety on the mainland.

As the two-year anniversary of the EU-Turkey deal nears on March 18, 2018, more than 13,000 men, women, and children are trapped on the islands, according to Greek government figures.

“The containment policy has turned the Greek islands, once a symbol of hope and solidarity, into open prisons that put the lives of refugees on hold for months on end, causing them additional suffering,” said Gabriel Sakellaridis, director of Amnesty International in Greece. “The Greek authorities, with the support of the EU, need to immediately bring refugees to safety on the mainland.”"

GREECE: Individual testimonies highlight "systematic pushbacks" of refugees in the Evros region

The Greek Council of Refugees' latest report documents pushbacks of refugees at the Greek border in the Evros region, which the organisation says violate "basic international obligations of Greece, and more specifically the principle of non-refoulement, the right of access to asylum and constitute inhuman or degrading treatment as well as exposure to threat to life or torture according to Article 3 of the ECHR."

UK: DATA PROTECTION BILL: This new government bill is a cynical attack on your privacy rights (Labour List, link):

"Three fundamental principles of data protection – lawfulness, fairness and transparency – have been recognised in UK law for decades. In a matter of weeks they could be scrapped. If the government gets its way, our rights over our own deeply private information will be needlessly sacrificed on the altar of immigration control.

The new data protection bill was meant to give people more control of their information. But if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. In a cynical attack on privacy rights, the government sneaked in a damaging and discriminatory “immigration exemption”. And the ploy is about as Orwellian as it gets.

The exemption will allow the Home Office and any other agency using information for immigration purposes to ignore their data protection obligations and our fundamental rights.

When information is processed by or passed between government departments – or scandal-ridden contractors like G4S and Serco – we will no longer have the right to know what information is held on us, who it is being given to, or why.

How would you feel knowing everything you said to your doctor, social worker or child’s school could be secretly passed on to another government department without your knowledge or consent?"

EU: Joint statement: Coercion of children to obtain fingerprints and facial images is never acceptable

Brussels, February 28, 2018: We, the undersigned civil society and UN organizations, are concerned by proposals now under consideration as part of the ongoing reform of the Common European Asylum System which would allow the use of coercion to take the fingerprints and facial images of children.

UK: From Mayor Azéma to Sanctuary Cities today: inspiring community leaders (Right to Remain, link):

"Lisa Fittko and her husband smuggled many refugees across the border and were only able to do so because of the assistance of the mayor of the border town Banyuls-sur-mer.

Vincent Azéma provided housing for Lisa Fittko, supplies, and most importantly shared the secret smuggler’s route that Fittko used to get people to freedom and information in order that they may use it safely. Azéma was eventually removed from office by the authorities and replaced by a supporter of Pétain, the head of collaborationist Vichy France. However, Azéma returned to office after the war was over.

Quite the hero – who, incidentally, is now immortalised in the name of retirement flats in Banyuls. But inspiring figures aren’t only needed during world wars. Leaders of community standing up to repressive and unjust policies are needed at all times, and we must celebrate this heritage of resistance."

EU-LIBYA: A ‘blind spot’ in the migration debate? International responsibility of the EU and its Member States for cooperating with the Libyan coastguard and militias (EU Immigration and Asylum Law and Policy, link):

"The discussion on the restrictive migration management policies of the European Union (EU) and its Member States (MS) has so far focused on the potential violation of the primary rules of international law that determine the conduct of subjects of international law. The question of applicability of the secondary rules of international responsibility that provide for the consequences of the commitment of a wrongful act has attracted less attention. The main question in the current context is whether the cooperation of the EU and its MS with the Libyan coastguard and militias with the view of stemming irregular migration flows to Europe generates international responsibility for the above actors. More specifically, it is asked whether there is an autonomous basis in the law of international responsibility for holding the EU and its the MS responsible for the violations of human rights occurring in Libya, even if they do not exercise directly jurisdiction over migrants. Three aspects of this theme will be developed here: first, the nature and scope of the cooperation of the EU and its MS, in particular Italy, with the Libyan authorities, coastguard and militias in view of restricting the access of migrants to the EU; second, the extent of human rights violations of migrants in Libya; and third, the alleged complicity and responsibility of the EU and MS for the violations of these rights."

See also: Torture in Libya and Questions of EU Member State Complicity (EJIL: Talk!) and: EU and Italian authorities accused of “system crimes” as court calls for the recognition of migrants as a “people” and as holders of rights (pdf)

Pilot project blurs military and police lines on migration (euobserver, link):

"Migrants rescued at sea under an EU naval military operation will have their information expedited to the EU's police agency Europol.

The plan is part of a pilot project set for launch in the coming weeks, marking a further shift towards the blurring of lines between law enforcement and the military. (...)

The military is generally meant to fight the enemies of the state, while police protect the people of that state. The blurring of the two raises important legal and ethical questions.

To get around it, a small team of agents, plucked from the EU agencies like Frontex and Europol, will be dispatched onto the EU's naval flagship Operation Sophia."

And see: Documents: Operation Sophia anti-migrant smuggling mission to host "crime information cell" pilot project (Statewatch News, 29 November 2017)

EU: Asylum Procedures Regulation: Documentation

The new Asylum Procedures Regulation is now being discussed by the co-legislators - the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament. To aid public discussions on the issues involved we publish here the key documents in historical order.

EU: Justice and Home Affairs Council, 8-9 March 2018

UPDATE 11.3.18:

- Final press release (pdf)
-
B Points Agenda (discussed, pdf)
-
A Points Agenda (adopted without discussion, pdf)

Also under discussion is: Migration - overview of implementation and way forward (LIMITE doc no: 6283-REV-1-18, pdf).

EU: Frontex documents: Risk Analysis for 2018 and report on functioning of Eurosur in 2017

Frontex has recently published its Risk Analysis for 2018 and its report on the functioning of Eurosur, the European Border Surveillance System, during 2017.

UK: Immigration detainees 'held for excessive period' (BBC News, link):

"Immigration detainees are being held for "excessively long" periods in "prison-like" conditions, the prisons watchdog says.

It said Home Office failings were sometimes to blame for the prolonged detentions at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre, near Heathrow.

In some cases, a removal to another country failed because a lack of travel documents or a late legal challenge. "

See Report released today (pdf)


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (26.2.18 - 5.3.18)
UK: Home Office plans to deny immigrants access to data 'are illegal' (The Guardian, link):

"Plans to deny millions of people the right to access immigration data held on them by the Home Office are illegal and will be challenged in court, the government has been told.

Organisations representing up to 3 million EU citizens living in the UK and digital rights activists have written to the home secretary, Amber Rudd, giving notice that they will take legal action if a clause in the data protection bill is enacted.

The threat is aimed at proposals in the bill to introduce an exemption for immigration information. It is claimed that the clause would prevent those facing deportation from obtaining and challenging the accuracy of personal data held on them by the government."

CoE: Children in migration need information on reality, not just on rights, says a new report

Strasbourg, 05.03.2018 – Children in migration at all the stages of their journey to Europe should receive child-friendly and understandable information, which nevertheless must reflect the realities and difficulties they may face in the new environment, says the Council of Europe in a new report published today. The most effective way of providing the information is through personal verbal communication with professionally trained people the child trusts; leaflets and print material in clear language should be used as a complementary means; accurate peer-to-peer information should also be promoted.

SPAIN: "Racial profiling of people of African descent is endemic"

The UN's Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent said last week that "racial profiling of people of African descent is endemic" in Spain, upon the conclusion of a fact-finding visit to the country. A host of other criticisms and shortcomings are contained in a statement issued by the group.

UK: Home Affairs Select Committee on BREXIT: Oral evidence: Post-Brexit migration policy (pdf)

Xenophobia in Italy’s Election Campaign (HRW, link):

"Italian politics are never boring, and election campaigns are always times of particularly strident debate. But the tenor of the campaign leading up to Italy’s national elections on March 4 on immigration issues is profoundly alarming.

In the wake of a drive-by shooting targeting sub-Saharan Africans in Macerata, in central Italy, on February 3, many politicians seem more concerned with blaming irregular immigrants than with forcefully condemning an act of racist violence that left five men and one woman injured. The confessed shooter, Luca Traini, a former failed candidate for the anti-immigrant party Northern League, said he was distraught over the horrific death and dismemberment of an Italian woman and wanted to “shoot black men.” Three Nigerian men have been charged with the murder."

UK: The Data Protection Bill's Immigration Exemption must go (Open Rights Group, link):

"The Data Protection Bill is supposed to be about giving people greater control over their data. Yet it contains an Immigration Exemption that does exactly the opposite, by denying people access to their data when they need it most.

The Exemption removes individuals’ right to data protection if it is likely to prejudice “effective immigration control”, meaning victims of administrative errors will have no way to stop a typo from turning their lives upside down. This is a huge problem because according to the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, the Home Office has a 10 percent error rate in immigration status checks.

(...)

Open Rights Group is teaming up with campaigners for EU citizens' rights the3million to get MPs to oppose the disastrous Exemption when the DPBill is debated in the Commons on Monday 5th March. Can you take a minute to write your MP to let them know you are concerned about your rights?"

EU: End of the infamous EU refugee "relocation" scheme

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments: "The states that failed to respond deserve to be named and shamed and will go down in history for their inhumanity."

In the autumn of 2015 the EU set up a relocation scheme to move 160,000 refugees and migrants fleeing from war, persecution,poverty and climate change from front line EU states - especially from Greece and Italy - to the other 26 Member States. Later this was reduced to 98,253: 63,302 from Greece and 34,953 from Italy to be relocated.

The scheme ended at the end of 2017 when just 21,729 had been relocated from Greece and 11,853 from Italy: The final summary was published by the Commission on 5 February 2018 (pdf) and one of the last full summaries was dated 3 November 2017 (pdf). A number of Member States took no refugees, some a few and some met or nearly met their commitments.

No public interest in whether the EU-Turkey refugee deal respects EU Treaties and international human rights? (European Law Blog, link):

"In practice, this Court jurisprudence turns the concept of overriding public interest and the subsequent public interest test established by the Transparency Regulation into a ghost concept with no practical relevance.

At the same time, the case also revealed something we would not have wished to learn: that the refugee deal was made based on extremely limited and hasty legal analysis, the substance of which was not and has not been made public. The implications of this for the substance of the legal advice is clear: if the analysis confirmed that the agreement was legally sound, then the Commission would have had no problem in allowing its disclosure, however its being kept in the dark all but confirms the suspicions regarding its contents. While this is something we already knew, it demonstrates the difficulty of running a Union in a manner consistent with its values, such as respect for fundamental rights. When things get rough, other matters tend to take priority. We refuse to believe that settling this balance is a matter of no significant public interest."

See: Judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU: Case T-851/16: Access Info Europe v European Commission (pdf)

SPAIN: Tripling of arrivals by sea in 2017 shows need for safe migratory routes, says human rights group

The Andalusian Association for Human Rights (Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de Andalucía, APDHA) has called today for Spain to establish safe routes to access the country that will prevent people risking their lives at sea. The call comes alongside the presentation of the report 'Migratory Balance 2017', which demonstrates the notable increase in entries into Spain by maritime routes: 22,419 people arrived in 2017, almost tripling the number from the previous year.

Amnesty International: Hostile attitude towards human rights inched westward with legislation in Hungary (Budapest Beacon, link):

"The systematic crackdown on the rights of refugees and migrants in Hungary continued, while foreign-funded universities and NGOs faced new restrictions, according to Amnesty International’s 2017/18 State of the World’s Human Rights report.

In the report, the international human rights watchdog recalls the European Commission launched and moved forward with four formal infringement proceedings against Hungary in 2017."

UN: Migrant detention must be "last resort", UN rights group underlines in its Revised Deliberation on deprivation of liberty of migrants

GENEVA (26 February 2018) – Placing migrants and asylum seekers in detention should be seen as a last resort to be used only in strictly limited circumstances, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has stated in its position document based on international law and its own jurisprudence.

The group’s intervention comes amid concern over the increasing use of detention of migrants, a worldwide practice which has grown steadily over recent years.

EU: Migrant border crossings remain challenging in some Member States (Fundamental Rights Agency, link):

"Stricter border management policies remain in effect in a number of Member States, according to Agency’s latest report on migration-related fundamental rights issues. Pushbacks and refused entry for asylum seekers are just some of the challenges facing migrants when trying to enter or travel through the EU. Harsh winter conditions are also making conditions difficult for migrants."

See: Periodic data collection on the migration situation in the EU: February Highlights (1 December 2017 to 31 January 2018) (pdf)

FRANCE-NIGER: At French Outpost in African Migrant Hub, Asylum for a Select Few (New York Times, link):

"NIAMEY, Niger — In a bare suite of prefab offices, inside a compound off a dirt road, French bureaucrats are pushing France’s borders thousands of miles into Africa, hoping to head off would-be migrants.

All day long, in a grassy courtyard, they interview asylum seekers, as the African reality they want to escape swirls outside — donkey carts and dust, joblessness and poverty, and, in special cases, political persecution.

If the French answer is yes to asylum, they are given plane tickets to France and spared the risky journey through the desert and on the deadly boats across the Mediterranean that have brought millions of desperate migrants to Europe in recent years, transforming its politics and societies."

CoE: San-Marino, Spain, Sweden: new reports by anti-discrimination body (link):

"Spain should create a strong equality body, adopt new comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation and improve the education of Roma and migrant children, says the ECRI monitoring report. While progress has been achieved in re-housing and education of Roma, only 45% of Roma children complete compulsory education and the rehousing measures have contributed to residential and school segregation.(...)

Racist and xenophobic hate speech on the rise in Sweden, despite considerable preventive efforts, ECRI says. Positive developments recorded in the country include state support to combating racism and xenophobia, to integrating the extraordinary high number of refugees who arrived in 2015 to facilitate their access to the labour market and housing."

EU: EIB: Council approves extra €3.7 billion to address migration issues (Council press release, pdf):

"The Council has given the go-ahead to increased lending by the European Investment Bank to projects outside the EU that address migration issues.

It adopted the decision and regulation on 27 February 2018, following an agreement with the European Parliament on a mid-term review of the EIB's mandate for 'external' lending.

In total, the financing limit under an EU guarantee is increased by €5.3 billion. Of this, €3.7 billion are earmarked for projects in the public and private sectors providing a strategic response to the root causes of migration."

How weavers in Burkina Faso are now on Europe’s migration front line (IRIN, link):

"Last year, the EFI received €5 million from the multi-billion-dollar EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) to expand its programmes in Burkina Faso.

The fund, launched in 2015, aims to tackle the root causes of outward migration through development aid, security and peacebuilding support, as well as financing for migration management.

But in a country like Burkina Faso where remittances from migration represent real financial benefits for families, are projects like EFI – or more traditional EU rural development assistance – enough to dissuade young people from taking the risk of travelling to Europe?"

EU-GEORGIA: Foreign Minister Warns Against Visa-Waiver Abuse (Civil.ge, link):

"Georgian authorities will step up police cooperation with European partners on fighting organized crime, and will carry out a nationwide information campaign to reduce the growing number of Georgian asylum seekers in the Schengen countries, according to Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze.

(...)

“They are spending their already limited [financial} resources to travel to the EU Member States, and are in very dire conditions in [refugee] camps … and as I have already pointed out, seeking asylum [in EU countries] is almost like a lottery – the approval rates are between zero percent and three percent [for Georgian citizens],” Janelidze clarified.

Earlier, the government announced that it would tighten regulations for reducing the number of Georgian asylum seekers. These measures, among others, will involve a set of legislative amendments, which will impose readmission costs on readmitted persons, toughen procedures for changing last names, etc."

Greek authorities anticipate spike in Turkish appeals for political asylum (ekathimerini, link):

"Greek authorities are anticipating a significant increase in applications for political asylum from Turkish nationals fleeing their homeland amid a continuing crackdown by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Kathimerini understands.

The last major case involved 17 Turkish nationals who arrived on the islets of Oinousses last Monday.

They were initially transferred to a reception center on nearby Chios before being moved, in a secret operation, to Piraeus.

According to official government figures, 1,827 Turkish citizens lodged applications for asylum in Greece last year."

UK: Yarl's Wood Centre detainees 'desperate' (BBC News, link):

"Detainees at an immigration removal centre are in a "desperate" situation, according to the shadow home secretary.

Diane Abbott visited the Yarl's Wood Centre in Bedford on Friday and raised concerns in Parliament on Monday.

The Labour MP accused the government of ignoring women who are on "hunger strike" at the centre.

The company which runs the centre, Serco, said some women were refusing to eat in the restaurant, but that it was not a hunger strike."

See: This Is Why Over 100 Women Are Currently On Hunger Strike Inside Yarl's Wood (The Debrief, link)

EU: Italian work on Libya and migrants OK (ANSA, link):

"Brussels, February 20 - Italy's work on migrants and Libya has been positive, Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri told ANSA in an interview Tuesday.

"Italy is working to use the resources allotted by the EU to find sustainable solutions for Libya" and the migrants held there, he said.

"And for now it is going in the right direction, even though the conditions of the centres in Libya are not in line with our standards, and with basic humanitarian standards.

"But that is not Italy's fault, all the international community and not only the EU can help"."


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

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