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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: October 2018


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (15-24.10.18) including:

Swedish student who stopped deportation flight of Afghan asylum seeker to be prosecuted (The Independent, link):

"Authorities in Sweden are set to prosecute a 21-year-old student who refused to sit down on a passenger plane in protest against the deportation of an Afghan asylum seeker who was also on board.

Elin Ersson single-handedly managed to stop the deportation on the 23 July flight from Gothenburg to Istanbul, due to take the 52-year-old man out of the country.

Footage of her defiant stand in defence of the Afghan man has notched up 13 million views online and earned her international praise.

But the Swedish prosecutor’s office announced on Friday that the activist will be charged with “violations of aviation law,” according to Swedish media."

FRANCE: Crimes of solidarity: freedom for the "7 of Briançon"

They are facing potential incarceration for helping migrants in danger in the French Alps. Bastien, Benoit, Eléonora, Juan, Lisa, Mathieu et Théo will face justice on November 8th in GAP. They are prosecuted for "helping undocument foreign nationals to enter national territory, in organized gang”. The envisaged penalty is 10 years in prison and 750.000 euros fine. What should they amend for? Being involved in a march against the far-right, little band called "Bloc identitaire", which was obstructing the border so as to retaliate against migrants trying to cross it.

EU: Common European Asylum System (CEAS): Asylum procedures at the border a sticking point for Member States

As the Member States continue to disagree over proposed changes to Common European Asylum System, "the biggest outstanding issue for most Member States" in the Asylum Procedures Regulation is that of the "border procedure" set out in Article 41, according to a recent note sent by the Austrian Presidency to Member States' representatives.

EU: New Asylum Information Database report: Access to protection in Europe: The registration of asylum applications

"The report analyses the legal and practical aspects of registration of asylum claims, with focus on: responsible authorities and content of information collected; locations of registration; time limits; and documentation. It also discusses interplay of the Dublin procedure (following the Court of Justice of the European Union ruling in Mengesteab) and the specific mechanisms for registration of asylum applications made at the border and in detention centres."

UK: Lift The Ban: Give people seeking asylum the right to work (Refugee Action, link):

"People seeking safety in our country are banned from working. Unable to provide for themselves and their families, they’re often left to live in poverty.

Adding your voice means we can fight harder for change and win over those with the power to make it."

Statewatch Viewpoint: Morocco: Wherever EU immigration policy rears its ugly head, violence and abuses follow (pdf) by Yasha Maccanico, October 2018

In the summer of 2018, after concerted efforts since 2014 by the EU and its Member States to block off the eastern (Turkey to Greece) and central (Tunisia and Libya to Italy) routes across the Mediterranean used by migrants and refugees to reach Europe, there was an increase in crossings using the western route (Morocco, and sometimes Algeria, to Spain). This was accompanied by an increase in deaths at sea and, in Morocco, extensive police operations to remove black African migrants from the north of the country, based on racial profiling and flagrant breaches of human rights.

Spain-Morocco: 55 people returned to Morocco from Spain in less than 24 hours

On Sunday 21 October, 208 people managed to reach Spanish territory by climbing over the fences separating Morocco from the Spanish enclave of Melilla. One man died whilst doing so and another 19 were taken to hospital with "injuries, cuts and some other fractures," according to the Spanish government delegation in Melilla.

55 of the 208 were subject to "express" removal proceedings and returned to Morocco in less than 24 hours, with the Spanish government invoking a bilateral agreement signed with Morocco in 1992 to do so.

Frontexit press release: The unrestrained race to strengthen Frontex at the expense of fundamental rights (11 October 2018, link):

"There is no tangible justification for this repeated revision of the mandate, other than what the EU says – the urgency of the situation. However, this emergency does not exist (the number of arrivals has been slashed in five since 2015 according to IOM), nor does the so-called “migration crisis”. The collapse in the number of arrivals is directly attributable to the increase in border security arrangements and unlimited cooperation with countries where rights violations are widespread.

Frontex, keen to describe Tunisian fishermen who save lives as “smugglers”, and eager to collaborate and even provide training to States where violations of rights are documented, is the image of a Europe sinking into an ever more security logic to the detriment of the rights of exiles and even of the people supporting them

This border closure is also a threat to the respect for the rights of people forced to exercise their right to leave any country using increasingly dangerous routes."

European Parliament study: Oversight and Management of the EU Trust Funds: Democratic Accountability Challenges and Promising Practices (May 2018, pdf) including the Facility for Refugees in Turkey and Emergency Trust Fund for Africa:

"This study provides a comparative assessment of the governance and oversight frameworks of selected EU trust funds (EUTFs) and the Facility for Refugees in Turkey (FRT). It explores how these EUTFs and the FRT add to and ‘mix’ the instruments set up under the EU Multiannual Financial Framework. It addresses the issue of their added value in light of the EU Better Regulation guidelines, their impact on the role of the European Parliament as a budgetary authority and the right to good administration. The study recommends reducing the complexity of the EUTF and FRT governance frameworks, and strengthening their consistency with the EU’s cooperation efforts in third countries and EU Treaty values. Finally, it recommends reinforcing the venues for democratic accountability, fundamental rights and rule-of-law impact assessments, which are trust-enhancing."

Open Doors, Samos Island, Greece: We Need Your Help! (Samos Chronicles, link):

"The autumn of 2018 will see the opening of a new grocery store in Samos town. It will be the first of its kind on the island. It will be for the refugees run by refugees. The shop has been rented and is now in the process of being set up. It is in a very good location on one of the most used routes from the refugee camp into the town centre."

Who also report that: "Situation here looking increasingly grim. Over 360 arrivals this last week alone. 250 the week before. No space in the camp and no tents for new arrivals. Criminal. The weather stays fine but the rain will be here soon. Then disaster."

Greece: Four officers probed for mistreating elderly migrant woman (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Four officers who appear in a video posted on the Internet behaving in an unbecoming manner towards an elderly female migrant at the Moria hotspot on Lesvos were ordered to return to their respective bases on Saturday as an investigation gets under way.(...)

One of the officers, who can be seen verbally abusing the woman in the video, was suspended."

Council reports that the court find that nobody in the EU is responsible for the EU-Turkey deal of 16 March 2016

- "General Court's main finding according to which the aforementioned EU-Turkey Statement does not relate to an act of the European Council nor of any other body, office or agency of the Union and hence that the actions fell outside jurisdiction of the Court of Justice, stands."

See the Legal Service of the Council has circulated a Note: Cases before the Court of Justice Cases C-208/17 P, C-209/17 P and C-210/17 P - EU-Turkey Statement - Final dismissal of appeals (LIMITE doc no: 12217-18, pdf)

Rescued migrants in limbo while waiting for resettlement in Germany (DW, link)

"More than 100 migrants who were rescued at sea have been waiting months to be transferred to Germany, the German government says. Bureaucracy seems to be the main obstacle."

Asylum reforms derailed, as EU looks to north Africa (euobserver, link):

"Disagreements over the EU's internal asylum reforms remained entrenched after the EU summit on Thursday (18 October) - with notions of solidarity broadly dismissed as leaders press ahead to offshore migration with the supposed help of north African states.

The Brussels summit, where heads of state and government meet to thrash out solutions, failed to reach any agreement on long outstanding issues over the key EU asylum reforms that seek to better manage administrative bottlenecks and their adjoining political headaches."

And see: Reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) is in a mess (Statewatch News)

Northern Africa: Europe’s new border guard? (euractiv, link):

"As another EU summit gets underway, Leïla Bodeux and Davide Gnes wonder what values Europeans are willing to give up in order to stop migration.

Leïla Bodeux and Davide Gnes are policy officers on asylum, migration and development at Caritas Europa. (...)

In fact, EU engagement with countries of origin and transit for the purpose of stopping migration is nothing new. Propositions to enhance cooperation on migration management and border control in order to prevent departures of irregular migrants and to re-admit those returned from Europe have for long been sugar-coated with promises of economic investment, trade cooperation or development aid."

UNHCR: Refugee arrivals in 2018 (16 October): Sea arrivals: 90,562, Land Arrivals 5,288: Greece: 24,999, Italy 21, 631, Spain: 48,807, Cyprus 413. Dead or missing: 1,834.

CJEU: Advocate General Szpunar proposes that the Court should rule that the ‘Returns Directive’ must be applied to third-country national where internal border controls have been reinstated (pdf):

"The Advocate General therefore concludes therefrom that a Member State must apply the stages of the return procedure laid down in the ‘Returns Directive’ to the situation of a third-country national stopped or intercepted in connection with the irregular crossing of an internal border at which border controls have been reinstated by application of the Schengen Borders Code."

Are You Syrious (link, 16.10.18):

AFGHANISTAN

Report on child returnees from Save the Children

"Save the Children have released a report about the situation for children returned to Afghanistan from EU states the lack of protection they receive and the extreme danger they are placed in. The report concluded that “Children returning to Afghanistan face difficulties in accessing reliable shelter, education, jobs and medical support, and risk recruitment to armed groups and physical harm due to conflict. Child returnees face psychosocial and in some cases legal challenges,"

GREECE: Arrivals

"Aegean Boat Report state that three boats have arrived on the Greek islands today carrying a total of 125 people.

The first boat was picked up outside the airport by HCG, Lesvos south at 08.30. 57 people. No breakdown available.

The second boat arrived in port at Chios at 08.30 carrying 33 people, 5 children, 9 women and 19 men from Syria, Kuwait, Palestine and Iraq.

A further boat landed outside the airport, Chios at 22.00 carrying 35 people, 1 woman and 34 men,

Land Arrivals: About 200 people were reported to have waded across Evros river today into Greece from Turkey."

European Parliament Study: Humanitarian visas: European Added Value Assessment accompanying the European Parliament's legislative own-initiative report (pdf):

"it concludes that EU legislation on humanitarian visas could close this effectiveness and fundamental rights protection gap by offering safe entry pathways, reducing irregular migration and result in increased management, coordination and efficiency in the asylum process, as well as promoting fair cost-sharing."

EU budgets for the externalisation of migration control: Austrian Presidency seeks Member State views

How do the Member States think EU budgets should be spent on the externalisation of migration control? That was the subject of a questionnaire issued to Member States' representatives in September 2018, in the context of the ongoing negotiations on the EU's budget for the 2021-27 period.

UN experts: concern over EU's attempts to seal borders, close protection space and disregard human rights and humanitarianism

In September eight UN working groups, independent experts and special rapporteurs issued a statement highlighting serious concerns over the ongoing attempts to reform the EU's migration and asylum systems. Their paper was addressed to the informal summit of EU heads of state and government in Salzburg in September, but remains relevant given the ongoing discussions in the EU on the Common European Asylum System and revamping of EU agencies such as Frontex and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).

FRANCE-ITALY: French police admit taking two migrants over the Italian border 'by mistake' (The Local, link):

"French gendarmes have admitted driving two undocumented immigrants over the Italian border without Italy's permission, in what the French authorities said was a mistake.

The incident took place last Friday, when Italian police spotted a van belonging to their French counterparts near Claviere, a ski resort on the border between south-east France and north-west Italy that runs through the Alps.

The French officers reportedly ushered two men out of the vehicle into some nearby woodland, then drove back towards France."

EU: Solidarity vs ‘securitarian obsessions’ (EurActiv, link) by Progressive Caucus of the European Parliament:

"The sudden and substantial increase of migrants’ flow to Europe over the last years has produced a severe political and identity crisis within the EU, a crisis that risks undermining its basic principles and values, and fostering the rise of xenophobic nationalism, writes the Progressive Caucus of the European Parliament.

For this reason, migration is probably the greatest challenge the EU has to deal with in the near future. It is also a common challenge for all the Progressive forces in Europe.

In recent months, arrivals to the Mediterranean coasts have substantially decreased because of the border externalisation measures taken by the EU and its members, including the agreements with Turkey and Libya. This led certain governments to celebrate the result as a victory.

What they do not mention are the consequences these measures have produced on migrants’ lives: deaths at sea have proportionally increased and crossing the Mediterranean is becoming more dangerous. In addition, migrants are choosing new and routes that are more dangerous and many of them are trapped in Libya, victims of violence and exploitation."

GREECE: Victims of Torture: the invisible side of the refugee population vulnerability (Metadrasi, link):

"Imprisonment in inhuman conditions, extreme tactics of physical abuse, rape, daily psychological violence. In many countries of the world, unthinkable ways of cruel and degrading treatment are still being practiced in order to punish, intimidate, interrogate. Among the refugees arriving in Greece, a high percentage are victims of torture, but they often constitute the “invisible” faces of the vulnerable refugee population.

The act of torture aims to break the resistance of the victims, while leaving as little physical evidence as possible. What is more, victims of torture are naturally reluctant to trust state authorities when arriving in a foreign country and this, combined with the stressful living conditions, makes it very difficult for them to share their stories.

On the other hand, it may prove crucial for a victim of torture to be certified, in order to prevent refoulment or deportation, support their asylum application and/or family reunification claim and be referred to services related to their physical and mental rehabilitation, social support etc. Furthermore, a certification as a victim of torture protects the beneficiary from re-traumatising examinations, while formally acknowledging and recording their experiences is an assertive and empowering act in itself."

France: Tensions reach boiling point in crowded detention centres (ECRE, link):

"NGOs have denounced the increase of acts of violence and tension between refugees and migrants in detention centres in France- a trend that La Cimade argues is the consequence of repressive policies of confinement which severely endanger detainees.

The number of people detained in France for immigration reasons has continued to rise, according to the annual report compiled by civil society organisations monitoring administrative detention centres (CRA) and other administrative detention places (LRA). Statistics for 2017 reveal that a total of 46, 857 people were detained, in comparison to 45, 937 in 2016. The number of detained children has also risen from 179 to 304 within the same time frame.

La Cimade argues that incidences of violence and aggression between detainees are becoming more frequent, because this prolonged incarceration is leading to reactions that can range from aggression, (directed to one’s self or others) self- immolation, resistance, defence, despair or anxiety."

GREECE: 11 killed as migrants smugglers' car crashes (Irish Independent, link):

"A car carrying migrants collided with a truck in northern Greece yesterday, killing 11 people, police said.

Ten of the victims were believed to be migrants who crossed into Greece from Turkey. The 11th person was the driver and a suspected migrant smuggler, police said.

Police said the car, in which the migrants were packed, had another vehicle's licence plates and is suspected of having been used for migrant trafficking. The car had not stopped at a police checkpoint during its journey, but it wasn't immediately clear how close to the site of the crash that it happened."

And see: Turkey migrants: Lorry crash in Izmir 'kills 22' (BBC News, link)

Hungary: Amnesty launches legal challenge to shameful law on migration that targets civil society (link)


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (3-14.10.18) including: Fears growing in 'unbearable' and overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece as winter approaches, The "hotspots" experiment: removing human rights from the equation and the contested Mediterranean
Fears growing in 'unbearable' and overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece as winter approaches (ITV, link):

"Unbearable, Hell, bad, dangerous - just a few of the words people use to describe the Moria refugee camp to us on the rare access we were given inside.

We visited the camp on the Greek island of Lesbos at what felt like a potential breaking point.

The thousands of refugees living there are traumatised, trapped and the hope they had when they arrived has been replaced with feelings of desolation.

The staff we spoke to in the overcapacity facility admitted to being overwhelmed and at a loss, but desperate for a solution."

European Commission releases data on Funds to Greece to deal with Migration (Keep Talking Greece, link):

"The European Commission has published a list of recipients of funds to Greece to deal with the migration crisis. An amount totaling 1.6 billion euros has been allocated to non-governmental organizations, international organizations and Greek authorities, even though only half of it has been disbursed."

Are You Syrious (11.10.18, link):

"Sea Watch’s reconaissance aicraft Moonbird took off from a new operating base on Thursday to give evidence of Europe’s deadly border policy and to call for rescue where needed. The aircraft had been prevented from continuing search-and-rescue operations by the Maltese government for three months. The death rate in the central Mediterranean sea has never been as high, as the number of active rescue boats has plummeted."

The “hotspots” experiment: removing human rights from the equation (Refugee Support Aegean, link):

"The Greek hotspots have been transformed into areas where human rights are being systematically breached. It is extremely problematic that these breaches continue despite the fact that a number of international organizations supervise and contribute to the hotspot operations."

Greece: Tents and Drones (Samos Chronicles, link)

"On Wednesday October 3rd 2018 over 200 refugees arrived on Samos.

On Thursday, a Palestinian friend living in one of the containers inside the camp was told he had to leave to make space for new arrivals who had more need for his place. Of course he asked where do I go. To the forest around the camp, he was told.

In what do I sleep?

A tent came the reply.What tent? You must go and buy one. On Friday we heard that the Chinese shops which sell small summer style tents had sold out. In the meantime…."

Germany extends border controls with Austria and Denmark (DW, link):

"Germany's Interior Ministry will extend migration controls at borders with Austria and Denmark for another six months. Denmark, Austria and France have also announced their intention to extend border controls."

EU: The European Border and Coast Guard: The Justice and Home Affairs Council is discussing: Policy debate: Doc no; 12768-18 (this is not a LIIMITE document, pdf) which includes proposals for:

"strengthening the cooperation with third countries by giving the agency a wider scope for action (not limiting it to neighbouring countries);

- supporting Member States on a technical and operational level with return operations; Agency staff can communicate directly with third countries."
[emphasis added]

Some "concerns" have been expressed as to the mandate of the standing corps of 10,000 officers.

EU:  Reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) is in a mess

- disagreement amongst Member States blocking adoption

The Austrian Presidency of the Council has produced a report on the state of play in the while trying to agree its negotiating position: From: Presidency To: Permanent Representatives Committee/Council (LIMITE doc no: 12420-18, pdf). There are no fewer than six previous versions.

Each of the seven measures are held up because a minority of delegations (Member States) in the Council are opposed to changes made or proposed unacceptable changes to the Council's original, agreed, negotiating position on which trilogue talks are based.

On its part the European Parliament - after many trilogue meetings - stands by the agreement reached in June on three measures: the Qualifications Directive, Reception Directive and the Resettlement Regulation.

Hungary’s Orbán thanks Greek far-right Golden Dawn for its support (euractiv, link):

" Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has formally thanked the Greek far-right Golden Dawn party for their support during last month’s vote on the activation of Article 7 against Hungary in the European Parliament. The move is likely to cause new frictions in the European People’s Party, Orbán’s political home in the EU."

Three female migrants found murdered near Greece-Turkey border - Area is known for illegal migrant crossings and police say they suspect foul play (Guardian, link):

"Two women and a girl believed to be migrants have been found dead with their throats slashed near Greece’s north-eastern border with Turkey, Greek authorities said.

The victims appeared to be of North African, Middle Eastern or Asian origin, but their nationalities and identities were unknown, police said. An initial examination of the bodies suggested the three were killed about four days earlier, coroner Pavlos Pavlidis said on Wednesday.

“It is clearly a criminal act,” Pavlidis told Associated Press. “They were found with their hands bound, each body about two or three metres away from the other. Their throats were cut right across.”"

Greek court orders inquiry into use of EU migrant funds (euobserver, link):

"Greek Supreme Court prosecutor Xeni Dimitriou on Monday ordered an investigation of how €570m of EU funds for migrant aid was spent after the sacked head of hotspot reception centres, Andreas Iliopoulos, indicated in a newspaper interview that EU funds for migration were being mismanaged. Iliopoulos was responsible for reception centres on Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos and in Evros, northern Greece. He was dismissed last week."

And see: Prosecutor launches probe into alleged mismanagement of EU Funds for refugees (Keep Talking Greece, link)

In Italy’s ‘hospitality town’, migrants fight to save mayor who gave them a new home (Guardian, link):

"Domenico Lucano revitalised his community by welcoming foreigners. He has been detained by the state … and supporters fear a political motive."

EU: The next phase of the European Border and Coast Guard: towards operational effectiveness (EU Law Analysis, link):

" Two years after the establishment, in record time, of the European Border and Coast Guard (EBCG), the Commission’s new proposed Regulation opens the way for a standing corps of 10,000 border guards, with its own equipment and greater executive powers."

Salvini threatens to shut airports over migrant ‘charter flights’ from Germany (euractiv, link):

"Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini threatened Sunday (7 October) to shut the country’s airports after media reported that Germany planned to send charter flights of rejected asylum-seekers to Italy."

EU: Asylum: Austria and Denmark announce their "vision for a better protection system in a globalized world"

A paper published by the Austrian interior ministry and the Danish Ministry of Immigration and Integration declares that "migration and asylum policy will shape Europe's future", arguing that "many citizens have lost trust in their governments' ability to deal with the challenges of irregular migration" - trust which will only be restored by "an alternative, unifying vision".

Denmark still refusing to accept any quota refugees in 2018 (The Copenhagen Post, link):

"Denmark will not be accepting any quota refugees for 2018, according to the immigration and integration minister, Inger Støjberg.

The decision means Denmark hasn’t accepted any quota refugees since 2015 and remains the only country to halt its intake of the so-called resettlement refugees.

“Even though we’ve seen better control on the flow of refugees, we are still in a situation when we are fighting to integrate the many refugees who have arrived to Denmark in recent years,” Støjberg said.

“Despite more refugees finding work, there are still many who can’t support themselves – particularly among women. So I’ve decided that Denmark won’t be taking in any quota refugees in 2018.”"

The contested Mediterranean (link)

"Private rescue organizations are put on the chain. In the middle of the standoff about the ship „Aquarius“ Frontex starts the surveillance with drones and wants to give the coordinates of refugee boats to Libya."

Italian-flagged migrant rescue boat defies anti immigration minister (Guardian, link):

"Vessel Mare Jonio sets out towards Libya despite Matteo Salvini clampdown on rescued migrants entering Italian ports. (...)

The Italian flag on the 38-metre Mare Jonio will make it harder for Salvini to prevent it from docking, though he could still move to prevent people from disembarking. The boat has been bought and equipped by a coalition of leftwing politicians, anti-racist associations, intellectuals and figures in the arts, under the supervision of two NGOs. Its mission has been called Mediterranean."

Europe's migrant rescue boats face uncertain future (DW, link)

"The Aquarius has docked at the port of Marseille, carrying with it uncertainty about the future of migrant rescue missions. But even as the humanitarian vessel ends operations indefinitely, some see hope on the horizon. (...)

"It means the Aquarius is going to be in the port of Marseille for a certain period of time while we go through the administrative details of getting registration for the vessel to be able to head back out to sea," Nick Romaniuk, rescue coordinator for SOS Mediterranee, told DW."

Libya is a war zone. Why is the EU still sending refugees back there? (Guardian, link)

A brutal life for migrants in Libya: trafficking, detention or death en route to Europe (pbs.org, link)

Greece: "We have found hell': trauma runs deep for children at dire Lesbos camp (Guardian, link):

"Violent and unsanitary conditions in Moria refugee settlement are exacerbating the horror of fleeing conflict for the 3,000 children who live there."

Hurriyet: Turkey sets up radars to monitor Aegean vessel traffic (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Turkey has set up eleven surveillance stations on the Aegean coast as part of the first phase of the Coast Surveillance Radar System (SGRS) Project which aims to "halt illegal activities" in the sea, Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported on Wednesday.

The paper says, when the system testing has been completed, the radars and electro-optical sensors will monitor the sea around the clock."

Morocco's foreign minister rejects EU's migrant centers (DW, link):

"Morocco's foreign minister said his country should play a greater role in EU decisions on migration in a newspaper interview. Nasser Bourita said Morocco was opposed to the migrant centers that the EU has suggested."

EU: The shrinking space for solidarity with migrants and refugees: How the European Union and Member States target and criminalize defenders of the rights of people on the move (TNI, link):

"Europe’s “refugee crisis” triggered a wave of solidarity actions by both civil society organisations and ordinary citizens. Their efforts were part of a wave of compassion, as people organised convoys to refugee reception centers, warmly greeted arrivals at train stations and lined highways to provide food and water to those making the journey from Syria and elsewhere. Just a few years later those same activists are treated as criminals and humanitarian search and rescue missions are criminalised.

The current onslaught originated in the intensification of the EU’s restrictive approach to immigration policy from late 2014 and the EU’s treatment of Italy and Greece, front-line states on the EU’s migration routes. Today in Europe, solidarity with migrants and refugees can lead to arrest, legal troubles, or harassment. The actions of national police, judiciaries, political powers and far-right militants have created and compounded hostility to solidarity with refugees and migrants.

This report looks at how EU policy has played out and offers a glimpse into the ways citizens and movements are resisting xenophobic and securitarian policies."

EU: On the fifth anniversary of the Lampedusa shipwreck that took 368 lives: Save the Aquarius, Save Lives - Joint NGO Letter (Human Rights Watch, link):

"Five years to the day after the Lampedusa tragedy in which at least 368 people died, rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea are more vital than ever. It is alarming that the last rescue ship in the Central Mediterranean may be forced to stop operating. We call on European leaders to ensure the Aquarius can continue to save lives at sea.

The decision by Panamanian authorities to strike the Aquarius, a nongovernmental rescue ship operated by SOS MEDITERRANEE and Médécins Sans Frontières (MSF), from its ships’ registry, apparently in response to pressure from the Italian government, is a reprehensible move. It will deny potentially life-saving assistance to vulnerable people at risk, including injured people, pregnant women, torture survivors, people traumatized by shipwrecks and unaccompanied minors.

This is just the latest in a series of moves to delegitimize and block nongovernmental groups performing vital search-and-rescue operations in the central Mediterranean. It risks forcing the last remaining NGO ship away from the deadliest stretch of water in the world, resulting in the end of nongovernmental rescue in the area, which for years, has courageously contributed to saving thousands of lives. All other NGOs are blocked in Italian or Maltese ports by legal actions or have been forced to suspend operations given unconscionable delays or refusals to disembark rescued persons in European ports."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (25.9-2.10.18) including: Lesvos refugee camp at centre of Greek misuse of EU funds row; migrant aid worker convicted for tweet in France; Frontex begins testing drones
Are You Syrious (30.9.18, link)

Greece

"Horrific conditions in Moria camp are only worsened through the rain. Heavy cold rains are a feature of fall weather and Salam Aldeen has documented the horrifying misery in which thousands are trapped. Most international officials are aware of the situations, yet there are only minor efforts. In the photo below, people are packed into a children’s play centre to stay out of the rain. This was part of the government plan to “protect” people from the storm nicknamed “Zorbas” that moved across Greece this weekend."

Germany agrees on immigration law to tackle labor shortages (Reuters, link):

" Germany’s coalition parties agreed on a new immigration law on Tuesday to attract more skilled workers from countries outside the European Union, in a politically risky push to fill a record number of job vacancies and stabilize the public pension system. "

UK: Stansted 15: Amnesty to observe trial amid concerns for anti-deportation activists (Amnesty, link):

"Amnesty International will be observing the trial of 15 human rights defenders set to go on trial at Chelmsford Crown Court next week (Monday 1 October) relating to their attempt to prevent what they believed was the unlawful deportation of a group of people at Stansted airport.

The protesters - known as the “Stansted 15” - are facing lengthy jail sentences for their non-violent intervention in March last year.

Amnesty is concerned that the serious charge of “endangering safety at aerodromes” may have been brought to discourage other activists from taking non-violent direct action in defence of human rights. "

And see: Stansted 15 Court Demo (Stop deportation charter flights, link)

UNHCR concerned over lack of Mediterranean rescue capacity (euractiv, link);

"The Maltese authorities on Sunday (30 September) finally took 58 migrants from the Aquarius to Valletta after they had waited for days in rough seas on the rescue ship that can no longer go to port after its flag was pulled.

The migrants, including Libyans, sub-Saharan Africans and Afghans, boarded two buses at a Malta Armed Forces base in Valletta after being transferred from the Aquarius to a Maltese patrol boat in international waters."

September 2018

Greece: Lesbos refugee camp at centre of Greek misuse of EU funds row - European anti-fraud agency investigates irregularities after report alleges defence minister benefited from camp funds (Guardian, link):

"The conditions in which thousands of asylum seekers are being detained on Lesbos has unleashed a furious political backlash in Greece, as financing of the island’s overcrowded Moria detention camp comes under scrutiny.

Tensions mounted after the defence minister, Panos Kammenos, filed a defamation action against three journalists, including the editor-in-chief of the Fileleftheros daily, after the publication of a report alleging misuse of EU funds. (...)

The European anti-fraud agency confirmed on Tuesday it was investigating “alleged irregularities concerning the provision of EU-funded food for refugees in Greece”. Athens has received a total of €1.6bn in financial aid for refugees since 2015"

France: Aid Worker Convicted for Tweet - First Such Conviction in French Courts (HRW, link);

"A humanitarian worker’s defamation conviction on September 25, 2018, for an ironic tweet represents a dangerous escalation in official harassment of groups providing crucial aid to migrants, Human Rights Watch said today. It is the first conviction of its kind in France.

A court in Boulogne-sur-Mer, northern France, found Loan Torondel guilty of criminal libel for a tweet he sent out at the beginning of January and sentenced him to pay a fine, which it suspended, and court costs."

Frontex begins testing unmanned aircraft for border surveillance (press release, link):

"This week, Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, has begun testing the use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) in Greece, Italy and Portugal to monitor the European Union’s external borders.

Frontex is exploring the surveillance capability of the medium altitude long endurance RPAS and evaluating the related cost efficiency and endurance. The agency will test the unmanned aircraft in several operational situations. These include surveillance of the sea, support of Search and Rescue operations, detection of vessels suspected of criminal activities, such as drug and weapon smuggling and information sharing with multiple users in real time."

CROATIA: Criminalising solidarity: Are You Syrious? statement on politically motivated, unjust guilty verdict for our volunteer

This past March, AYS volunteer Dragan Umicevic approached a police control near the Croatian border to alert police to a family of asylum seekers huddled in a field near Strošinci, already on Croatian soil. A few days later, he was shocked to find himself facing charges of aiding and abetting the asylum seekers’ “illegal crossing” of the Croatian border - despite the fact that he had never laid eyes on the family before and hadn’t even communicated with them directly beforehand.

Morocco navy fires on migrant boat, one dead: local officials (France 24, link):

"Morocco's navy on Tuesday fired on a boat carrying migrants which refused to respond to its orders, leaving a Moroccan woman dead and three other people wounded, local officials said.

The patrol was "forced" to open fire on a speedboat driven by a Spaniard who "refused to obey" orders in waters off the Moroccan locality of M'diq-Fnideq, the authorities said in a statement.

Four migrants were wounded, including a Moroccan woman who died of her injuries in hospital, a local official told AFP."

EU: What to do with rejected asylum seekers? (EurActiv, link) by Anna Lundberg:

"This is not news. For many years, people who do not return to their country of origin have been described as a major policy problem. Forgotten in this debate is that some of the people who have had their asylum applications rejected cannot actually return home.

The underlying reasons vary. If the person is stateless, the designated recipient country may not see any obligation to grant entry permits. There may be political reasons for a state to deny a citizen’s return; an individual’s citizenship may have been withdrawn or it may be impossible to get to the designated country or very difficult to obtain entry permits.

These “Non-Returnable Returnees” end up being legally stranded, in an uncertain position with a high risk of exploitation. In many countries, such people has no right to work and no right to emergency support."

On the proposed legislation in question, see the proposal to amend the Return Directive, available here: Security and migration proposals dominate Juncker's 'State of the Union' announcements - full documentation (Statewatch News Online, 14 September 2018)

BELGIUM: ‘Crimes of solidarity’ in Europe multiply as 11 stand trial in Belgium for helping migrants (Global Voices, link):

"Eleven people who had been arrested and charged with human trafficking in October 2017 appeared in court in Brussels on September 6, the first hearing of a trial that activists say is yet another case of “criminalization of solidarity” in Europe.

The defendants have allegedly assisted 95 undocumented migrants, including 12 minors, to travel from Belgium to the United Kingdom last year, either by hosting them in their homes, by lending them phones and thereby indirectly helping them cross the channel.

On the day of the trial, three hundred people protested in front of the courthouse. Demonstrators say this is a political trial, aimed at dissuading people from helping migrants by establishing an intimidating judicial precedent."

Portugal agrees to take 10 rescue ship migrants amid European divide (The Guardian, link):

"Portugal has offered to take in 10 migrants from the Aquarius rescue ship as Europe once again finds itself divided over what to do with the large number of people crossing the Mediterranean and arriving on its shores... As part of the deal, France will take 18 migrants and Spain and Germany 15 each.

SOS Méditerranée, the NGO that operates the ship, said on Monday it was making for the French port of Marseille carrying 58 people who had been rescued off the coast of Libya but the French government had signalled it was reluctant to welcome the boat, saying it should dock at the nearest safe port to its location near conflict-torn Libya.

Malta, the EU country closest to the ship, on Tuesday said migrants would be transferred to a patrol boat in international waters and taken to the island, which will then send them to the four other member states."

Aquarius migrant rescue ship heads for Marseille despite revoked registration (France 24, link):

"The Aquarius migrant rescue ship is headed for the port of Marseille with 58 people on board and will seek authorisation to dock from the French government, the vessel's operators said Monday, after the ship's registration was revoked."

And see: Charities plea for help after Aquarius migrant rescue ship's flag revoked - Operators claim Panama deflagged vessel after pressure from Italian government (Guardian, link) Also: Italy: A new underhand tactic for ending work of NGO rescue ship will cost lives (AI, link)

Italian government adopts measures to narrow asylum rights - New rules would make it easier to expel migrants and limit who is granted protection (Politico, link):

" Italy’s populist government approved a package of new migration measures Monday, aimed at making it more difficult for migrants to obtain asylum and humanitarian protection.

Under the legislation — which still needs parliamentary as well as presidential approval — migrants could have their asylum requests suspended and face immediate repatriation if they are considered “socially dangerous” or convicted of certain crimes, including drug dealing and sexual assault."


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

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