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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: April 2018


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (25-29.4.18)
Lesvos, Greece: Moria 35 Trial Ends in Conviction of 32 – But After 9 Months of Unjust Detention, the 35 will Finally be Free! (Lesvos Legal Centre, link):

"While all 35 defendants should soon be released from detention, a gross miscarriage of justice took place today at the Mixed Jury Court in Chios, Greece where a ruling of guilty was declared against 32 of the 35 defendants. The 35 were arbitrarily and violently arrested in Moria camp in Lesvos on 18 July 2017 following what started as a peaceful protest outside of an EASO office. This inherently unsafe verdict, reached despite an overwhelming lack of evidence, follows a week long trial which continuously violated fundamental principles of a fair trial under Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights and brings into serious question the impartiality of both the Judges and Prosecutor in the case.

32 of the 35 defendants were found guilty of injury to public officials, but acquitted on all other charges. The three individuals detained by a firefighter outside Moria Camp were found innocent of all charges; the testimony against them discredited as inconsistent and lacking credibility as the firefighter misidentified the defendants in court. (...)

Southern rim rebels against EU migration proposal - Opposition lowers chances of a deal by June (Politico, link):

"Five EU countries that sit on the bloc’s external borders are bucking a proposed overhaul of asylum rules, putting in peril efforts to strike a deal by June’s summit of European leaders.

The pushback from Italy, Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Malta — laid out in a three-page position paper obtained by POLITICO — comes as Bulgaria, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, is pushing a proposal aimed at revising the so-called Dublin Regulation and ending one of the bloc’s most bitter policy fights.

Their hard position comes on top of the longstanding opposition by the Visegrad countries — Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia — to any effort by Brussels to force countries to accept refugees, or to set new restrictions on how asylum seekers might be returned to the first EU country they entered."

See: Dublin Regulation: Position paper of Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain on the Proposal recasting the Dublin Regulation (pdf)

Germany-Tunisia: Germany assists Tunisia with electronic border surveillance system

The German Ministry of Defence is supporting Tunisia in the development of an electronic border surveillance system. An already-existing barrier is now being extended along the Libyan border to the border town of Borj AI Khadra in the Sahara. The recipient of the initiative is the Tunisian military, while the overall project is planned in cooperation with the US government and is being implemented by the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). The financial assistance received from Germany is vaguely stated by the government as a "double-digit million amount".

Alarm over Hungary's treatment of migrant children at border (DW, link):

"The 47-nation Council of Europe — the continent's main rights grouping — accused Hungary on Friday of mistreating migrant children aged from 14 to 18 at its border despite past prompts to uphold Europe's Convention against Trafficking in Human Beings.

Delegations that visited the zone in July and December last year found scores of unaccompanied migrant teenagers from countries including Afghanistan and Syria in confined container camps, surrounded by barbed wire and overseen by armed guards.

Council of Europe experts sad in the report to be published Friday that asylum-seeking children were also at risk of being "asked for sexual favors" to be moved up the lists of migrants waiting to enter Hungary."

See: GRETA: Report on Hungary under Rule 7 of the the Rules of Procedure for evaluating implemenation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (pdf)

Activists slam EU plan to force migrant kids to give fingerprints (rfi.fr, link):

"Activists have raised concerns about new EU plans to allow police to force migrant children to have their fingerprints taken. The aim is to prevent unaccompanied minors from going missing or ending up in the hands of criminal gangs. Critics say coercion is not the answer.

Under the proposal, EU member countries would be able to take the fingerprints of children as young as six, compared to the current age of 14."

Lesvos, Greece: Law And Order No Longer Applies 24/04/2018 (Eric Kempson Youtube, video, link)

Turkey says facing ‘new refugee wave’ after 30,000 Afghans arrive (euractiv, link):

"Nearly 30,000 Afghans have arrived in Turkey in the last three months, the Turkish government said Wednesday (25 April), after Amnesty International criticised the authorities “ruthless” decision to send more than 7,000 back to Afghanistan.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said 29,899 Afghans had crossed into Turkey since January compared to 45,259 people in the whole of 2017, state news agency Anadolu reported."

European Parliament: MEPs support reforms to speed up assessment of asylum requests in the EU (Press release, link):

"• Asylum requests registered in three days, admissibility assessed in one month
• Protection granted in six months (nine in exceptional circumstances)
• Right to a personal interview, free legal assistance and appeal
• Turkey cannot be considered a safe country of origin."

German court to rule on medical age tests for refugee minors (DW, link): "In Germany, a refugee's age is generally established in an interview with youth welfare officers. A court decision could soon require authorities to determine it with a medical exam, but those methods are controversial."

Swedish left divided over migration policy (New Europe, link):

"As the Swedes go to the polls in September 2018, divisions between left-wing coalition partners are becoming visible, especially on migration policy.

On Tuesday the Social Democrats announced their intention to pass a law that would link eligibility to social benefits with proficiency in Swedish. The law would apply for asylum seekers and immigrants. Moreover, the government would be able to stop benefits to newcomers that do not take the offer of Swedish language tuition."

Search requests for missing Syrians soar, says Red Cross (DW, link):

"After dealing with up to 50 requests for missing Syrians, the Red Cross has said thousands more people have sought its help in recent months. Reunions, however, have seldom occurred, according to the aid organization

International Committee of the Red Cross President Peter Maurer told journalists at the UN late Wednesday that the organization had received some 13,000 tracing requests from Syrians over the past six months, compared to only 30 to 50 per month in the early years of the Syrian war."

EU wrestles with plan to force fingerprinting of migrant children (Politico, link):

"EU plans that would allow police to forcibly fingerprint migrant children have become the focus of intense wrangling among the bloc’s major institutions.

Under plans to recast the Eurodac system that established a fingerprint database for asylum seekers from outside the EU, the European Commission has proposed letting police take fingerprints from children aged 14 and older. Rights activists have condemned the idea, saying coercion amounts to violence and could traumatize children.

The proposal is the subject of negotiations between the Commission, the Council of the EU and the European Parliament that began in September 2017. The next round of the talks takes place on Wednesday."

See: EURODAC: Trilogue document from 21 February 2018 including differing positions on forced fingerprinting of children

GREECE: Government Defies Court on Asylum Seekers: Reinstates Containment Policy That Keeps People Trapped on Islands (joint NGO statment, pdf):

"The Greek government’s move on April 20, 2018, overturning a binding court ruling ordering it to end its abusive policy of trapping asylum seekers on Greece’s islands raises rule of law concerns, 21 human rights and humanitarian organizations said today.

Rather than carrying out the April 17 ruling by the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, the government issued an administrative decision reinstating the policy, known as the “containment policy.” It also introduced a bill on April 19 to clear the way to restore the policy in Greek law. Parliament members should oppose such changes and press the government to respect the ruling."

An Italian Court Decision Could Keep Rescue Boats From Saving Refugees in the Mediterranean (The Intercept, link):

"In August 2017, an Italian prosecutor ordered police to seize and impound the Iuventa, a ship operated by the German nonprofit Jugend Rettet, in Trapani, a port in western Sicily. The Iuventa is used to rescue migrants attempting the perilous sea crossing between North Africa and Italy, but the prosecutor said he was investigating the organization for alleged ties to human trafficking operations in Libya. The investigation relied on evidence gathered through the use of police informants, an undercover operative, tapped phone calls, and a recording device that police placed in the Iuventa’s bridge months earlier, and it purported to show the crew of the Iuventa coordinating with Libyan smugglers.

The Italians’ case for holding the ship, however, has been criticized by outside observers, who point to legal irregularities and gaping holes in the prosecutor’s narrative. This week, Forensic Architecture, a London-based research organization, released a new investigation that calls into question the key evidence in the three events pivotal to the case. Researchers with the organization, who shared their findings with The Intercept, argue that Italian police have withheld and distorted evidence in order to paint a picture of collusion. On April 23, a court in Rome will decide Jugend Rettet’s final appeal against the seizure of their ship. Whatever the court decides, the case will set an important precedent for humanitarian operations in the Mediterranean."

EU-LIBYA: Refugees International report: "Death Would Have Been Better": Europe Continues to Fail Refugees and Migrants in Libya

Today, European policies designed to keep asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants from crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Italy are trapping thousands of men, women and children in appalling conditions in Libya. This Refugees International report describes the harrowing experiences of people detained in Libya’s notoriously abusive immigration detention system where they are exposed to appalling conditions and grave human rights violations, including arbitrary detention and physical and sexual abuse.

EU-ITALY-LIBYA: Pushing Migrants Back to Libya, Persecuting Rescue NGOs: The End of the Humanitarian Turn (Part I) (Border Criminologies, link):

"The vessel Open Arms of the NGO Proactiva Open Arms... was informed by the Italian MRCC that the responsibility for coordinating the rescue lay with the Libyan authorities from that moment on. When the Libyan Coast Guard arrived, it requested the Open Arms to hand them over the migrants. The NGO crew refused, because Libyan ports are no ‘places of safety’ where rescued people can be brought according to international law...

This was not to be the end of the matter, however. Instead, the Italian authorities responded, first, by denying the Open Arms permission to bring the migrants to Italy, which has always been the landing point for NGO vessels acting under the coordination of the Italian MRCC. When the Open Arms was finally allowed to dock in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo, the Italian authorities confiscated the ship. The captain and the head of mission were subsequently charged with aiding ‘illegal immigration’.

...In this post, I argue that these incidents are part of a series of developments, which show that Italy is tightening its policy of containment to prevent ‘unwanted’ migrants from reaching European soil, while at the same time waging a war against humanitarian organizations. Through these actions, the government facilitates returns to Libya, which are carried out on Italy’s behalf by the Libyan coast guard and navy. In so doing, Italy is putting an end to its humanitarian turn and moving towards a more exclusionary management of the space of the sea."

Revamping the Schengen Information System: trilogue documents on police cooperation, border checks and returns

Statewatch is today publishing the most recent documents from the secret "trilogue" meetings on the new rules that will govern the Schengen Information System (SIS). The documents concern the rules on the use of the system for police cooperation, border checks and returns.


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (19-24.4.18)
Are You Syrious (23.4.18, link)

Fascists Attack Refugees on Lesvos: Feature

"On Sunday night around 200 fascists viciously attacked a group of protesting refugees in Mytilene, Lesvos. The protesters from the Moria camp have been in Sappho Square since an Afghani man died last week after failing to receive needed medical care. The protestors are demanding access to basic human rights, adequate treatment in the camp, and an end to their detention.

At around 8 PM, a large group of fascist people gathered near Sappho Square in Mytilene, ostensibly to hold a “flag ceremony”. It seems likely that this “flag ceremony” was simply a pretext for the assault.(...)

The male refugees formed a circle to protect the women and children who remained in the centre, and also held out blankets to shield them. Those who witnessed the event stated that the fascists made a special effort to target the women and children in the crowd." (...)

The peaceful protesters that were arrested early hours of the morning for sitting in Sappho square, and having rocks and flares fired at them by fascists, have just been released from police custody and have to see lawyers in the morning to see what they have been changed with. The only crime committed here is by fascist and the authorities for not implementing the rule of law - Eric Kempson, long-term volunteer (...)

An update and Summary of the Moria 35 trial

The trial of the Moria 35 has begun. Below is a summary from the court proceedings. Today all 7 of the prosecution witnesses made their testimonies

1) Today all the prosecution witnesses made their testimonies. They were 7. Also another 2 didn’t come. All of them are cops and one is firefighter.

2) All the prosecution witnesses didn’t recognize even one from the defendants. Except : the firefighter who recognized three, which as he said, put the fire outside Moria . The judge asked him to spot them. He pointed with his finger to three people. But the persons he pointed at were different from the persons he said in his affidavit!!! All laughed, because he wasn’t able to spot the defendants. Also one cop said that these three people were before the fire at the fights in Moria camp as well.(...)

Why Journalists Covering the Refugee Crisis Face Moral Injury (Refugees Deeply, link):

"The refugee crisis saw many journalists confronted with trauma and hypocrisy on their home turf. Professor Anthony Feinstein discusses his latest work on the effects on those involved and their wider relevance.(...)

It’s asking different questions compared to previous work in which you fly off to a faraway country and witness things at a distance. Journalists saw things that they felt were morally reprehensible, and this upset them because it was sometimes their friends or their countrymen, or the government, who they faulted for this moral lapse"

EU: Council of the European Union: Revision of DUBLIN rules

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council 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 (recast) (pdf). The Council developing its negotiatiing position which includes:

"discourage abuses and prevent secondary movements of the applicants within the EU, in particular by including clear obligations for applicants to apply in the Member State of first entry and to remain in the Member State that has been determined as responsible under the Dublin list of criteria."

And see: New Dublin: Reversing the Dynamics (LIMITE doc no: 7674-18, pdf) In the second and third phases of a (refugee) "crisis" the European Council takes over:

"The third phase of the mechanism (marked in red in graphic 2) defines the broad parameters that will come into play in the event of a severe crisis. The main responsibilities in this phase lie at the European Council level. Any measures adopted when this level of pressure is reached should be based on political direction from the leaders. As well as the European Council being able to upgrade or prolong some or all of the measures triggered during the previous phases, leaders may also decide upon extraordinary measures, depending on the scope and specific characteristics of the crisis at hand. All measures decided upon by the leaders will be operationalised by the Council and implemented by the Commission and Member States, in line with the directions and guidelines given by the leaders."

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments: "A familiar pattern is emerging. Llike in the financial crisis the response to a new "refugee crisis" will lie with the European Council (EU "Leaders"). Responsibility will thus not rest with the Justice and Home Affairs Council, the Commission, the European Parliament or with Member States (and their governments)."

175 illegal Migrants Caught at the Bulgarian Border in March (novinite.com, link)

"There is a double increase of detained migrants at the state border in March compared to February this year, according to data from the Ministry of Interior.

A total of 175 people without registration were detained at the entrance, at the exit and inside the country. In the first two weeks of April, there is also an increasing flow of people. Although there is an increase, the data show that there is still no room for pressure as it did in 2015 and 2016 at the same time."

Bosnia Failing to Protect Asylum Seekers - Country Appears Ill-equipped to Manage Increase in Arrivals (HRW, link)

"When you think of refugees in connection with Bosnia and Herzegovina, you may think of people displaced by fighting in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. But today the country is facing a different kind of refugee crisis as it strains to safeguard the rights of a growing number of people from other regions who are seeking protection.

According to the UNHCR, 1,138 asylum seekers and migrants arrived to Bosnia between January 1 and March 3, more than the total for 2017. Most of them are from Syria, followed by Pakistan, Libya, and Afghanistan. Some are fleeing conflict and human rights abuses, while others are seeking a better life.

Government officials say they are managing the situation, a position echoed by UNHCR. But activists and NGOs say that the government is failing to adequately protect the rights of refugees who suffer in the streets without adequate food, shelter, and medical care."

EU: EURODAC: Trilogue document from 21 February 2018 including differing positions on forced fingerprinting of children

A document from the ongoing "trilogues" on the upgrading of the EU's Eurodac database highlights the differing positions of the Council and the Parliament over proposals to make it possible for children's fingerprints to be taken by force by national authorities.

GREECE: Protest by migrants against imprisonment on Greek islands attacked by far-right

"Police forced dozens of migrants, most Afghan asylum-seekers, who had been camped out on the main square of Lesvos island’s capital since last week, onto buses and transported them to the Moria camp in the early hours of Monday after downtown Mytilini turned into a battleground on Sunday.

The operation was intended to end clashes that raged all night in the center of the eastern Aegean island’s capital after a group of some 200 men chanting far-right slogans attacked the migrants who had been squatting on the square since last Wednesday in protest at their detention in Moria camp and delays in asylum processing."

GREECE: Op-Ed: Moria 35 – Trial at the Gates of Fortress Europe (ECRE, link)

"Today begins the trial of the Moria 35, which will determine the fate of 35 individuals arrested following a protest outside the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) in Moria Refugee Camp on 18 July 2017. The stakes are high in this inherently political trial. The 35 face criminal charges for which they may receive 10 years in prison and probable deportation if found guilty. (...)

Why then, despite the inherent weakness of the case and the overwhelming evidence of police brutality, has this managed to even come to trial?

We believe this prosecution is part of an ongoing policy to criminalize and silence those who question their hostile containment. It is the refugee and migrant community of Lesvos that is on trial, to collectively punish and provide a deterrence to anybody who dares to challenge a system which seeks to dehumanise and deny them their rights.

A call for international solidarity with the Moria 35 is not therefore just a call to support 35 individuals who are victims of cynical criminalization, it is a call to support a politically aware community demanding its rights."

And see: Opening of the 'Moria 35' trial on 20 April on Chios Island (Greece): Statement from the Trial Observation Delegation (pdf)

FRANCE-ITALY: Far-right activists block Alps pass used by migrants (France 24, link):

"Around 100 far-right activists on Saturday tried to block a French alpine pass used by migrants in a bid to "ensure that no illegal immigrant can return to France".

Members of the rightwing Generation Identity (GI) movement trudged through the snow up to Col de l'Echelle near the border with Italy where they plan to spend the night.

The pass is a "strategic point of passage for illegal immigrants" entering from Italy, GI spokesman Romain Espino, told AFP, criticising what he called "a lack of courage of the public authorities"."

EU: Europol: European Migrant Smuggling Centre report: January 2017-January 2018 (pdf):

"Ruthless and violent criminals are increasingly providing smuggling services to irregular migrants to evade border controls, migration regulations and visa requirements. Most irregular migrants resort to the assistance of profit-seeking smugglers. With improved border controls, migrants are deterred from attempting to illegally cross borders by themselves and are diverted into the hands of smugglers who put migrants’ lives at serious risk and therefore pose a security challenge to the internal security of the European Union (EU). A pan-European response to efficiently disrupt migrant smuggling activities is still needed and the European Migrant Smuggling Centre (ESMC) is leading it by strongly supporting EU Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs).

Migrant smuggling continues to represent a highly-profitable business in which criminal syndicates enjoy low risk of detection and punishment. The business model of criminals involved in migrant smuggling is continuously evolving and responding to the dynamics and the needs of the migratory flows impacting the EU. Migrant smugglers are becoming more and more organised, establishing sophisticated professional networks, operating transnationally from source towards destination countries.

According to the vast amount of data and information reported to the EMSC in recent months, targeting migrant smuggling therefore persists as one of the most relevant priorities. These factors highlight the need to continue developing comprehensive and coordinated responses across and between affected continents to efficiently combat migrant smuggling."

Press release: All you need to know about migrant smuggling in the EU (pdf)

EU: The Khartoum Process: "needs-based reintegration assistance" for people returned to Sudan

In response to a parliamentary question from Kathleen Van Brempt MEP, the European Commission has provided some information on the Khartoum Process concerning migration within and from the Horn of Africa and its efforts concerning return and "reintegration" to Sudan: "The Facility will provide 4 200 already returned persons, including from Europe, with needs-based reintegration assistance that aims to address the social, economic and psychosocial dimensions of reintegration."

At least 11 migrants dead, 263 rescued off Libya coast (Middle East Eye, link):

"At least 11 migrants died at sea and another 263 were rescued on Sunday in two separate operations off the coast of Libya, the country's navy said.

In the first operation, "a coastguard patrol... was able to rescue 83 illegal migrants and recovered 11 bodies in a rubber boat five nautical miles northeast of Sabratha," navy spokesman General Ayoub Kacem told AFP.

Sabratha is about 70km west of Tripoli.

"The 11 dead migrants drowned when the dinghy overturned but were recovered by the survivors and hoisted into the boat," said Mohamad Erhouma, a member of the nearby city of Zawiyah's coastguard."

GREECE: Red Cross warns surge in women and children arriving in Greece could spark emergency close to land border with Turkey (IFRC, link):

" The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is warning that a sharp rise in the number of people arriving in Greece from Turkey could signal the start of a summer emergency.

More than 1,000 people have made the dangerous journey by foot from western Turkey to north east Greece, crossing the major Evros river, since March. More than 100 people have arrived every day this week...

The closest official registration centre, in nearby Fylakio, is already overwhelmed which means those arriving to Evros have to make their own way to Thessaloniki to register – 430km away."

And: Refugees sleep in squares & parks as hundreds flock to Thessaloniki (Keep Talking Greece, link)

France's lower house approves bill to tighten asylum rules (Reuters, link):

"France’s lower house approved by a large majority on Sunday a bill that would tighten asylum rules after tense debates that created the first cracks within President Emmanuel Macron’s party.

One member of Macron’s party, Jean-Michel Clement, voted against the bill and said he would leave the majority.

“I am not sure we’re sending to world citizens the universal message that has always been ours,” the lawmaker said in a statement following the vote late on Sunday.

The French National Assembly voted in favour of the legislation by 228-139, with 24 abstaining. Debates are due to follow in the upper house, the Senate, in June. The National Assembly will have the last word on the bill."

See: Bill Could Undermine Asylum Seekers’ Rights - Amend Draft to Safeguard Access to Protection (Human Rights Watch, link)

EU officials fear new wave of migrants after Greek court ruling (euractiv, link):

"A top Greek court ruled on Wednesday (18 April) that migrants landing on Greek islands should no longer be held there while asylum claims are assessed, a decision raising alarm among EU officials in Brussels.

The prospect of new arrivals, often fleeing violence in the Middle East via Turkey, being able to quickly reach mainland Europe from the islands could undermine EU efforts to discourage people leaving Turkey.

An EU official described the ruling as a “big worry”.

Austria to seize refugees' mobiles and demand cash (The Local.at, link):

" Asylum seekers will be forced to hand over their mobile phones and up to 840 euros ($1,040) in cash to the authorities, under measures approved by the Austrian cabinet on Wednesday.

The money will be put towards the costs of their applications, while authorities will examine whether geo-location data from refugees' phones match their accounts of how they arrived in the country.

If the applicant is found to have previously entered another European country where the so-called "Dublin regulation" is in force, they could be sent back there."

Cyprus granted protection status to 1,300 asylum seekers last year (ekathimerini.com, link):

"The 28 Member States of the European Union granted protection status to 538,000 asylum seekers in 2017, down by almost 25 percent, according to Eurostat.

Cyprus granted protection status to 1,005 Syrians (78 percent) to 75 Somalians (6 percent) and 50 Iraqis (4 percent) – the island's contribution was 0.24 percent of the total granted protection in the bloc."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (10-18.4.18)
European Parliament study: Senegal: bastion of democracy, migration priority for the EU (pdf)

"Senegal has a long tradition of migration to the EU and other African countries, and today 5 % of its population live abroad. Remittances account for more than 10 % of GDP. As a priority partner in the Migration Partnership Framework, Senegal has been constructive in the political dialogue on migration, while maintaining its position that more should be done on legal migration into the EU. Senegal is one of the main benificiaries of the EU Trust Fund. Development cooperation, still at the core of relations with Senegal, has been structured to ensure increased coordination between the EU, Member States, and the Senegalese authorities. The challenge going forward will be to ensure that Senegal honours its commitments on the readmission of irregular migrants, and encourage progress on human rights."

EU: Migratory flows in March: Fewer arrivals in Italy (Frontex, link):

"In March, 6 200 irregular border crossings were detected on the four main migratory routes into the EU, down 63% from the same month of last year.

In the first quarter of 2018, the total number of irregular border crossings halved to 18 800, mainly because of lower migratory pressure on the Central Mediterranean route."

ITALY: Sequestration of the Open Arms rescue boat and the case against the crew: background, documentation and sources

On 16 April 2018 Statewatch published an analysis entitled 'The seizure of the Open Arms boat as a paradigm of the European Union's war on human rights', examining the charges levelled at the crew of the boat and the vessel's sequestration in Sicily. This page provides background information and documentation relevant to the case and the broader situation.

EU: Common European Asylum System: Qualification Directive: 6th trilogue - State of Play (178 pages, pdf): Four column document with the Commission proposal, Council and European Parliament positions and "compromise" column:

"In order to facilitate the reading, these parts have been highlighted in in the table below as follows:

- the parts in yellow concern cross-references to other proposals which depend on the finalisation of the CEAS package;
- the parts in in green mark the elements upo which agreement has been confirmed;
- the parts in blue mark the elements upon which the agreement reached at technical level has to be confirmed at political level.

New text in the fourth column compared to the COM proposal is marked in bold and new text compared to the previous version of the table is marked in underline. Deleted text in the fourth column compared to COM proposal is marked with […]."

And see: LIBE Commitee Agenda (pdf)

Greece: Persisting problems in the asylum procedure (Aitima, pdf):

"One year ago, our organization released the report Asylum Seekers "ON HOLD¨ whereby we highlighted serious problems in the asylum procedure. We remain very concerned, because most of these problems persist and at the same time new ones have emerged.

PERSISTING PROBLEMS

- The access to the asylum procedure at the mainland remains difficult, given that all unregistered asylum seekers are referred to the problematic Skype procedure.
- The authorities still impose a geographical restriction on all new-comers to remain on the islands with disregard to the principle of proportionality.
- The European Asylum Support Office is still involved in the asylum procedure exceeding its competence under the relevant Regulation.
- Everyday service of the asylum seekers at the Regional Asylum Offices remains problematic.
- The authorities do not yet provide free of charge legal aid at 1st instance to asylum applicants.
- The Asylum Service cannot yet ensure adequate 1st instance examination of the asylum applications in all cases.
- The problem of the 3.100 appeals pending for over two years remains and what is more over 400 backlog cases have been added to that."

FRANCE: Bill Could Undermine Asylum Seekers’ Rights - Amend Draft to Safeguard Access to Protection (HRW, link):

"(Paris) – A bill before the French Parliament on immigration and asylum could jeopardize access to protection and should be revised, Human Rights Watch said today. The National Assembly will examine the bill in the week of April 16, 2018, and the Senate in May.

“Under the guise of providing a more effective asylum system, the bill includes a series of measures that would diminish access to protection,” said Bénédicte Jeannerod, France director at Human Rights Watch. “The few – albeit significant – positive measures in the bill cannot hide the concerns it raises for people who were at risk in their home countries.”

Human Rights Watch is concerned about the following measures:

Lack of fairness in accelerated procedures... Shortened deadline for appealing rejections... Removals would no longer be suspended pending appeal... Increased maximum detention period... Migrant children in detention"

UPDATED: Migrants in Serbia still face difficulties, EU official says (euractiv, link):

"Migrants staying in Serbia are in a difficult situation and their integration into society should be enabled through education for minors and job opportunities for adults, a representative of the EU delegation to Serbia told EURACTIV.rs.

Nicholas Bizel said that many of the migrants have been in Serbia – which was on the so-called Balkan migration route at the height of the migrant crisis – for more than a year or even longer. He added that their chances of entering the EU are very slim and unlikely.

There are currently just over 4,000 migrants in Serbia, and in the first two months of 2018 more than 1,000 of them said they would seek asylum."

EU: Schengen Information System for returns: latest trilogue document

As part of its ongoing efforts to beef up the 'Security Union', the EU is establishing a new legal basis for the Schengen Information System which will increase the role that the database plays in deportations from the EU. The legal basis is currently being negotiated in secret 'trilogue' meetings between the Council, the Parliament and the Commission. Statewatch is today publishing the latest trilogue document showing the Commission's original proposal, the positions of the Council and the Parliament and any compromises that have been reached so far.

Statewatch Analysis: The seizure of the Open Arms boat as a paradigm of the European Union's war against human rights (pdf)

This analysis is based on the charges levelled at Proactiva Open Arms and was published in the wake of the crew's interrogation and the impounding of the Open Arms rescue boat. It was written by the steering group (direttivo) of the Osservatorio Solidarietà della Carta di Milano, which was formally constituted in January 2018. It was originally published in Italian. A prosecutor has now ordered the freeing of the Open Arms, although judicial proceedings are ongoing.

Italy: The Taranto Hotspot: Unveiling the Developments of EU Migration Management Policies (Border Criminologies Blog, link):

"Guest post by Carlo Caprioglio, Francesco Ferri and Lucia Gennari. Carlo is a researcher and activist. He is currently a PhD Candidate in Legal Philosophy at Roma Tre University. Carlo’s research focuses on migration law, administrative detention, labour exploitation and clinical legal education.(...)

In this piece, we take the hotspot of Taranto as a case study through which to explore the changes that migration and border control policies have undergone in the country. Since 2014, the EU Commission has played a leading role in defining migration management policies in member states. As depicted in EU official documents (such as the ‘Agenda on migration’ and the Commission's proposals for new regulations on the European asylum system; see here, here and here), these policies aim to prevent the arrival of migrants in Europe, as well as migrants’ mobility across the EU internal borders."

EU: CJEU: An unaccompanied minor who attains the age of majority during the asylum procedure retains their right to family unification (Press release, pdf):

"Such an application for family reunification must however be made within a reasonable time, in principle within three months of the date on which the minor concerned is recognised as having refugee status.!

See: Judgment (pdf) and: Childhood’s End? The Court of Justice upholds unaccompanied child refugees’ right to family reunion (EU Law Analysis, link)

More than 1,650 migrants crossed Greece's northeastern border in March (ekathimerini.com, link):

"More than 1,650 migrants crossed Greece’s Evros river that marks the country’s northeastern border with Turkey in March, despite the high water levels during winter, data from police arrests showed on Friday.

According the police, 1,658 people were detained after entering the country from the river last month, compared with 262 people arrested for illegal entry the same period last year. Most of the arrivals are Syrian and Iraqi families who brave the cold weather to attempt the perilous journey across the border."

Greece: Arrivals on the islands: Hellenic Ministry figures show that as of 12 April there were 15,267 refugees on the islands, including 8,465 on Lesvos.

EU: UNHCR Desperate Journeys report provides snapshot of changing refugee movements to Europe

Despite a drop in the number of refugees and migrants reaching Europe last year, the dangers many face along the way have in some cases increased, according to a new report by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, setting out changing patterns of movement.

The Desperate Journeys report found that sea arrivals to Italy, mostly from Libya, have drastically reduced since July 2017. This decrease has continued in the first three months of 2018, with a 74 per cent drop compared to last year.

CoE: Anti-Torture Committee calls for a co-ordinated European approach to address mass migratory arrivals in Italy (link):

"The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) published today a report on an ad hoc visit conducted in Italy to examine the situation of foreign nationals deprived of their liberty in the so-called “hotspots” and immigration detention centres, in a context of large-scale arrivals from North Africa.

The CPT recognises the significant challenges faced by the Italian authorities regarding the influx of new arrivals by sea. It also acknowledges the substantial efforts in carrying out rescue operations and in providing shelter and support to the hundreds of thousands of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants currently present in the country. In this framework, the CPT recalls the need for a co-ordinated European approach and support system to address the phenomenon of mass migratory arrivals."

And see: Executive Summary (pdf) and Full report (pdf)

Greece: Lesvos: Migrant arrivals continue, riot breaks out at Moria camp (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Authorities say a total of 607 migrants and refugees reached Greece’s eastern Aegean islands between Thursday and Tuesday.

More specifically, 418 arrivals were recorded on Lesvos, 120 on Samos and 69 on Chios. According to official data, a total of 1,173 migrants and refugees have reached the Greek islands since April 1.

Meanwhile, reports Tuesday said that a medical clinic was seriously damaged during riots at the Moria refugee camp on Lesvos late Monday."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (2-9.4.18)
Hungary votes to keep prime minister and right wing in power

""BUDAPEST —Viktor Orban, Hungary’s staunchly anti-migrant prime minister, was reelected Sunday after his right-wing Fidesz party was projected to win a supermajority of seats in parliament. The resounding victory will probably permit Orban’s government to continue with democratic backsliding."

UK: Shocking inspection report of Harmondsworth detention centre (These Walls Must Fall, link):

"An inspection report published today reveals the dark, unacceptable nature of immigration detention in the UK.

Harmondsworth is Europe’s largest immigration detention centre, with a capacity to hold up to 676 people for the purposes of immigration administration and enforcement. A new inspection report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons has found “considerable failings” in safety and respect for detainees, people being held for excessively long periods, and in contravention to the detention rules that are supposed to protect vulnerable people, including survivors of torture. The Inspectors found that large numbers of men with mental health problems were being held in prison-like conditions."

See: HM Chief Inspector of Prisons: Report on an unannounced inspection of Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre Harmondsworth site (pdf) and: Action Plan (pdf)

UN urges French government to provide for basic needs of migrants and asylum seekers in Northern France (ECRE, link):

"UN human rights experts are urging the French government to provide safe drinking water, sanitation services and emergency shelter for migrants and asylum seekers in Calais, Grand-Synthe and other areas along the Northern coast of France.

(...)

The experts also called for an end to harassment and intimidation of volunteers and NGOs providing humanitarian aid. They urged France to fulfil its obligations and promote the work of human rights defenders."

See: France urged by UN experts to take effective measures to bring water and sanitation services to migrants (UN press release, pdf)

Refugees: Greece Statement by 5 of the accused of the Moria 35 – Take action!

"On the 20 April, we are scheduled to attend trial in Chios after waiting nine months, trapped on Lesvos, while 30 of our brothers unjustly have waited in prison for this same time period.

Our humanity has been denied since we stepped foot in Europe, the supposed cradle of democracy and human rights. Since we arrived we have been forced to live in horrible conditions, our asylum cases are not taken seriously, and most Africans are denied residency in Europe and face deportation. We are treated like criminals, simply for crossing a border that Europeans can freely cross." (...)

Greece: 94 migrants rescued off Lesvos (ekathimerini.com, link):

"The Greek coast guard has rescued 37 migrants and refugees from a rubber dinghy off Lesvos island in the eastern Aegean, according to reports Friday. (...)

Also Friday, the crew of a vessel belonging to the European Union’s border monitoring agency Frontex rescued 57 migrants from an inflatable dinghy off Lesvos."

Comment: According to official Greek Ministry figures there are now over 8,000 refugees on Lesvos. Betwen 28 March - 3 April 592 refugees arriced on the island.

U.N. rights watchdog urges Hungary to halt hate speech, protect refugees (Reuters, link):

"A U.N. rights watchdog called on Hungary on Thursday to crack down on hate speech by politicians against minorities including Roma and Muslims, and repeal a law allowing police to expel irregular migrants without giving them a chance to seek asylum."

France to extend internal EU border checks (euractiv, link):

"France said Wednesday (4 April) it has decided to extend border checks with countries in Europe’s Schengen passport-free zone until the end of October because of the persistent threat of terrorism.(...)

A European Commission spokesman confirmed “we received notification from France this week” to extend controls for six months beyond the 30 April expiry date."


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

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