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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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February 2019


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (19-25.2.19) including:

- African Union seeks to kill EU plan to process migrants in Africa
- Report on the consequences of security and migration policies at French-Italian border
- Deal will see Spanish rescue ships return migrants to Morocco


African Union seeks to kill EU plan to process migrants in Africa (The Guardian, link):

"The African Union is seeking to kill off the EU’s latest blueprint for stemming migration, claiming that it would breach international law by establishing “de facto detention centres” on African soil, trampling over the rights of those being held.

A “common African position paper” leaked to the Guardian reveals the determination of the 55-member state body, currently headed by Egypt, to dissuade any of its coastal states from cooperating with Brussels on the plan.

The EU set plans for “regional disembarkation platforms” in motion last summer to allow migrants found in European waters to have their asylum requests processed on African soil."

German Government confirms: Libyan authorities not contactable for maritime rescue (Andrej Hunko press release, pdf):

"The Federal Government confirms that there are “difficulties in the availability electronically and by telephone” of the Libyan ‘coastguard’. The same was also said to apply “regarding language barriers”. The EUNAVFOR MED military mission has initiated a “monitoring mecha-nism” to tackle problems such as these, with the aim of evaluating maritime rescue missions."

Persona non grata, Consequences of security and migration policies at the France-Italy border - Observation report 2017-2018 (Anafé, pdf):

"In 2017 and 2018, working with local, national, French and Italian partner non-profits and NGOs, Anafé has monitored the border and has collected testimonies in order to conemn the illegal practices of the French administration against foreigners arriving there.

From Menton to Ventimiglia, in the Roya Valley, from Briançon to the Col de Fréjus and Modane, via the Col de Montgenèvre and the Col de l´Échelle, the conclusions are the same: discriminatory controls, hasty procedures, human rights violations, endangered people, irregularities in entry denials, hindrances to the access to asylum, failure to look after unacompanied minors, irregular push backs, irregular detention, police chases, violence, injuries and deaths."

Building States’ Capacity to Manage Legal Identity – Focus on e-Passports, Public Key Infrastructure (IOM, link):

"In a world increasingly on the move, technology races to efficiently support the daily management of departures and arrivals of millions of individuals at airports, seaports and land borders. This is a global challenge: facilitate national and international travels while optimizing security checks to adequately address border management risks.

In order to mitigate some of these risks, it is strongly recommended that travelers use biometric travel documents, such as e-passports and electronic identity cards, to properly verify their identity when needed, and obviously at a border.(...)

Greece races to move refugees from island likened to a 'new Lesbos' - Migration minister warns camp on Samos where hundreds of children live in squalor is six times over capacity (Guardian, link):

"Greek authorities are scrambling to house almost 4,000 people crammed into an overflowing migrant camp in Samos, as aid groups warn of a “humanitarian disaster” on one of Europe’s forgotten frontlines.

Likening Samos to a “new Lesbos,” the country’s migration minister warned of a race against the clock to find suitable accommodation for the ever growing number of people trapped in a reception centre now six times over capacity."

Spain and Morocco reach deal to curb irregular migration flows (El Pais, link):

"Sea rescue services will be able to return some migrants to Moroccan ports instead of taking them to Spanish ones.

Spain and Morocco have reached an agreement on an unprecedented strategy to contain irregular immigration. Under the deal, Spain’s sea rescue services, Salvamento Marítimo, will be allowed to take some of the rescued migrants back to Moroccan ports, according to three sources in the Spanish government.

The measure will apply to migrants found in missions where Spanish rescue services are assisting the Moroccan Coast Guard in their maritime area of responsibility, and when the nearest port is in Morocco."

EU: Council negotiating position on new Frontex Regulation

The Council of the EU last week agreed its mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament on the new Frontex Regulation, which will further increase the powers and role of the border agency. Statewatch is making the Council's mandate (document 6357/19, LIMITE, pdf) publicly available.

Turkey might allow Syrian refugees to go to Europe - newspaper (Ahval, link):

"The Turkish government is considering opening its borders to allow Syrian refugees to travel to Europe as the European Union opposes Ankara’s plan to establish what it calls a safe zone in northeastern Syria, pro-government daily Yeni Safak said on Friday.

The United States and the European Union are sabotaging Turkey’s plans to establish a safe zone to the east of the River Euphrates as a way to help four million Syrians in Turkey return to their homeland, Yeni Safak said.

In response, Turkey is considering abandoning a 2016 refugee deal between Turkey and the EU, it said, on the grounds that the EU has failed to fulfil the terms of the agreement."

The ECtHR as a drowning ‘Island of Hope’?’ Its impending reversal of the interpretation of collective expulsion is a warning signal (Verfassungsblog, link):

"The outcome of the currently pending case ND and NT v. Spain before the Grand Chamber may determine the future course of the Court in other migration policy related cases. This particular case deals with Spain’s policy of ‘devoluciones en caliente’ or ‘hot returns’ in Melilla. These are immediate returns of foreign citizens who have been intercepted at the Spanish-Moroccan border area without even assessing these individuals’ identity. The public hearing before the Grand Chamber took place last fall and the pronouncement of the judgment is expected soon. The judgment could be yet another setback for the interpretation of the prohibition of collective expulsion, for push-back policies and, more broadly, for the minimum level of protection for migrants and refugees by the European Convention on Human Rights and its additional protocols. Thus, the ruling might be a further step in a development to cut minimum guarantees for migrants and asylum seekers – a development encouraged by pressure from certain governments."

GREECE: Council of Europe slams Greece over refugee camp conditions

"Horrific sanitary conditions, lack of food, and police beatings: just some of the conditions migrants in Greek camps are subjected to, according to a new report. The situation for children is particularly precarious."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (12-18.2.19) including:

- Tighter laws continue to hit migrants across the EU
- EU asylum applications fall to below half crisis peak
- EP civil liberties committee against proposal to give Frontex powers to assist non-EU states with deportations


EU: Common European Asylum System: Evaluation of the application of the recast Qualification Directive (2011/95/EU) (pdf):

"The aim of the study was to evaluate the practical application of the Recast Qualification Directive 2011/95/EU (Recast QD or Directive 2011/95/EU) laying down standards for the qualification of third-country nationals as beneficiaries of international protection as well as for the content of such protection. To this end, the study examined how and to what extent Member States had implemented common standards, whether the Recast QD had changed the situation in the Member States when compared to 2013, the deadline for transposing the Recast QD into national legislation, and whether it had led to greater convergence at EU level. Finally, the study identified benchmarks for measuring the implementation of each Article as well as shortcomings which could possibly justify amendments to improve the effectiveness of the Directive."

And: Executive summary (pdf)

Swedish anti-deportation activist avoids jail time (InfoMigrants, link):

"Elin Ersson prevented a plane from taking off that had an Afghan man aboard who was supposed to be deported back to his country. A Swedish court ruled that she will not have to spend time in jail, but ordered her to pay a fine.

Elin Ersson, the Swedish activist who live-streamed her protest on a plane that was taking an Afghan man back to his home country was fined 3,000 Swedish kronor ($324, €286) in court on Monday.

Ersson protested the deportation on a Turkish airlines plane at Gothenburg Landvetter Airport, which was bound for Istanbul on July 23, 2018. She refused to take her seat for take-off unless the man would not be deported. The livestream of her protest went viral."

When rescue is capture: kidnapping and dividing migrants in the Mediterranean (OpenDemocracy, link) by Martina Tazzioli:

"The Italian minister of the interior, Matteo Salvini, is currently under investigation for abuse of power and the kidnapping of 177 migrants. These migrants were, on Salvini’s orders, confined to the coast guard vessel Diciotti for more than one week in late August last year. While this case received international media attention, it was not an isolated event. Over the last several years Italian ministers and politicians have repeatedly violated international and domestic law as they have sought to prevent individuals from migrating over the Mediterranean Sea. The disembarkation of rescued migrants has been denied or delayed many times. On a few occasions, Italy has arbitrarily closed its ports entirely.

...far from being an exclusive Italian affair, the above mentioned legal and political controversies are part of a European battle, in which member states compete to not take care of a few dozen people on a boat seeking asylum. In fact, the recurrent strategy of taking migrants hostage is a sign of how deep Europe’s crisis has become."

Tighter laws continue to hit migrants across the EU (FRA, link):

"Stricter migration laws and policies continue to take their toll on migrants’ fundamental rights, finds the agency’s latest report on migration-related fundamental rights concerns. It highlights the hardening political stance in Member States, difficulties in claiming asylum, and poor reception conditions during the cold winter months."

See: Migration: Key fundamental rights concerns (quarterly report, pdf): covering developments in Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Greece, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Poland.

Bulgaria urged to stop locking up stateless people by detained heart doctor (Thomson Reuters Foundation, link):

"A cardiac specialist, who was locked up in Bulgaria for six weeks because he has no nationality, has called on the government to stop treating stateless people like criminals.

Sager Al-Anezi, who is from a large stateless population in Kuwait called the Bidoon, qualified as a doctor after moving to Bulgaria in 2007 and was training to become a heart surgeon.

The doctor said stateless people could not go to university in Kuwait, but he was able to obtain a passport from a third country - which he did not want to name - with Kuwait's blessing which allowed him to study abroad and led him to Bulgaria.

But when he tried to renew that passport the third country refused and he applied for formal recognition as a stateless person in Bulgaria. He was locked up on Jan. 3 when he chased up on that application."

Striking for Refugees on Samos? (Samos Chronicles, link):

"Where were the refugees?

As for the strike itself there was one overwhelming question as far as I was concerned: “Where were the refugees?” What was supposed to be an act of solidarity was massively diminished by their absence. Yet on fine weather days such as this, you will always see many refugees on the streets, walking by the sea front or with their children in the play areas. But on this day, apart from a scattering of young African men on the very edges of the gathering, there were no refugees to be seen. It was startling and disturbing."

Are You Syrious? (15.2.19, link):

Feature

"217 people died in the Mediterranean this year. Among those who lost their lives while dreaming about freedom and dignified life, was were four girls - one was 9 years old, the two 16 and one 17 years.

If the borders are open, these girls would not be forced to take this dangerous journey across the sea in the winter. Even more, if life in the countries where they are coming from is safe, they could stay at home, go to school, fall in love for the first time, go out with friends, laugh, play, plan a future… But, they became just numbers in IOM dark statistics. (...)"

Italy's asylum rejection rate at record high (euobserver, link);

"The rate of rejection of would-be asylum seekers has reached a record high in Italy, according to figures released by the Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI). It says some 24,800 asylum applications in Italy were denied in the last four months. It noted rejected asylum applications went from 17,500 from October 2017 to January 2018, to almost 25,000 between October 2018 and January 2019."

Are You Syrious (14.2.19, link):

ITALY

"Italy’s public prosecutor is investigating the death of 117 people, who lost their lives on 19th January, after more than 8 hours stranded at sea, because of Libya not responding to Rome’s MRCC calls.

Neither the countries’ coastguards nor the commercial ships in the area reacted to the SOS calls and, unfortunately, Sea Watch 3 was too far away to reach the boat in distress on time.

Only 3 people, out of 120, survived.(...)"

EU asylum applications fall to below half crisis peak (Reuters, link):

"The number of people seeking asylum in the European Union fell for a third straight year in 2018 to less than half the peak during the 2015-2016 migration crisis, data released on Wednesday showed.

The bloc’s asylum agency reported 635,000 applications in 2018, still more than double the figures typical before the 2011 “Arab Spring” uprisings spread war and instability across North Africa and the Middle East.

The 2018 figure was slightly below 641,000 asylum applications filed in 2014, the last year before a surge in arrivals by the Mediterranean sea created a high-profile humanitarian and political crisis.

The asylum figures peaked at 1.4 million and 1.3 million in 2015 and 2016. One of the main sea routes used by asylum seekers to reach Europe - from Turkey to Greece - was largely shut in 2016, and another - from Libya to Italy - was sharply curbed last year. "

See: EASO report: EU+ asylum trends: 2018 overview (pdf)

EU: Migration and asylum: European Court of Auditors to examine "hotspots" in Greece and Italy

The European Court of Auditors (ECA) is to conduct an audit of the "hotspots" set up in Greece and Italy, which "will assess whether support for Greece and Italy has achieved its objectives, and whether the asylum, relocation and return procedures have been effective and swift."

IRELAND: Second fire attack on proposed refugee housing branded ‘unacceptable and worrying’ (Irish Legal News, link):

"A hotel which was earmarked as a possible Direct Provision centre has been subjected to an arson attack for the second time in five weeks.

Repairs to the Shannon Key West Hotel in Rooskey, which was attacked last month, had just been completed when it was set on fire again last night.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said he was “deeply concerned and disappointed” at the news. Gardaí are now examining the site."

EU: Report to the EU Parliament on Frontex cooperation with third countries in 2017

A recent report by Frontex, the EU's border agency, highlights the ongoing expansion of its activities with non-EU states.

EU: EP civil liberties committee against proposal to give Frontex powers to assist non-EU states with deportations

The European Parliament's civil liberties committee (LIBE) has agreed its position for negotiations with the Council on the new Frontex Regulation, and amongst other things it hopes to deny the border agency the possibility of assisting non-EU states with deportations.

Council of Europe: Hungary should address many interconnected human rights protection challenges (link):

"Challenges include civil society space, gender equality, refugee protection and independence of the judiciary.

“Hungary faces many interconnected human rights challenges,” said today Dunja Mijatovic, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, after her five-day visit to Hungary last week. “The space for the work of NGOs, human rights defenders and journalists critical of the government has become very narrow and restricted.”"

Study: Germany needs 260,000 immigrants a year to meet labor demand (DW, link):

"Germany needs at least 260,000 new migrant workers per year until 2060 in order to meet labor shortages caused by demographic decline, according to a study published on Tuesday.

Of that number, 146,000 people each year would need to immigrate from non-EU member states, the research published by the Bertelsmann Foundation said.

Due to an aging population, the labor force in Germany is estimated to shrink by a third, or around 16 million people, by 2060 without immigration. Absent immigration, the labor shortage could have a devastating impact on world's fourth largest economy."

Libyan coast guard taking drifting migrants back to Libya - Salvini (Times Malta, link):

"Some 150 migrants have been picked up by the Libyan Coastguard from a drifting boat and are being taken back to Libya, from where they had departed, Italian Home Affairs Minister Matteo Salvini said on Monday evening.

Earlier, the NGO Alarm Phone expressed its concern over the migrants and said the Maltese and Italian maritime rescue authorities have been alerted about them.

The boat, which Alarm Phone said was believed to be carrying “50-60 women and 30 children”, was drifting after its engine stopped working."

German car toll and deportation law stokes EU criticism in Austria (euractiv, link):

"Interior minister Herbert Kickl from the populist Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) recently asked European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos for permission to deport criminal refugees found guilty of more basic offences.

However, the Greek official rejected this plan, saying that such an amendment would contravene the Geneva refugee convention.

The debate around deportation has been sparked by the murder of the head of the social welfare office in Dornbirn (Vorarlberg) in east Austria.

...There could be zero tolerance for criminal asylum seekers, said Vorarlberg’s state governor, Markus Wallner (ÖVP). He added that this is a gap in legislation that had to be closed."

Italy: 'Migrant menace': Salvini accused of targeting refugees and ignoring mafia (Guardian, link):

"...last Thursday night, when 90 carabinieri paramilitary police officers surrounded several apartment buildings in Caserta, the provincial capital, many residents thought an anti-mafia blitz was under way. The targets were in fact immigrants, under scrutiny for sanitary inspections of their homes.

It is part of a trend since Matteo Salvini of the far-right League became interior minister in June 2018. Senator Pietro Grasso, a member of the national anti-mafia commission and former prosecutor responsible for the 2006 arrest of the Sicilian mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano, said: “Unfortunately, the Italian government […] is prioritising immigration, making people believe it is an emergency, rather than fighting the real problems, such as the mafia. Meanwhile, the bosses are getting richer and richer.”"

 


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (5-11.2.19) including:

- How EU Countries Undermine the Right to Liberty by Expanding the Use of Detention of Asylum Seekers upon Entry
- Parallel forces under interior ministry dominating decision making in Tripoli
- Spain: APDHA, EntreFronteras and the Andalusia Union of Journalists call for an end to the information blackout at the southern border


EU: Crossing a Red Line: How EU Countries Undermine the Right to Liberty by Expanding the Use of Detention of Asylum Seekers upon Entry (ECRE, link):

"This week the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, in conjunction with ECRE and a number of European project partners, launched their report “Crossing a Red Line: How EU Countries Undermine the Right to Liberty by Expanding the Use of Detention of Asylum Seekers upon Entry.” By examining four case studies; Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary and Italy, this research explores how asylum seekers’ rights to liberty are undermined upon entry, with a specific focus on de facto detention.

“Crossing a Red Line” explains that while there has been a significant decrease in asylum applications in Bulgaria, Hungary and Italy, the use of detention upon entry has been increasing since 2015 and continues to do so. Practises of de facto detention- which indicates the deprivation of an individual’s liberty without the requirement of a detention order- are widespread and specific to country context. Hot spots, transit zones, pre- removal centres, border zones at which migrants have been ‘pushed- back’ and boats- including search and rescue vessels- have all become spaces in which people can be detained. In other cases “protective detention” results in unaccompanied children having their freedom of movement restricted.

With no procedural guarantees and no opportunity to seek judicial review, the only possibility for release from de facto detention is to leave to another country."

EU: Relying on relocation: ECRE's proposal for a predictable and fair relocation arrangement following disembarkation (link to pdf)

"EU countries need to set up a relocation arrangement that guarantees predictability and certainty. The reinvigoration of discussions on responsibility-sharing in the Council presents a window of opportunity, with a French-German proposal calling for a solidarity mechanism “based on relocation as a rule”, and a European Commission Communication suggesting that “temporary arrangements of genuine solidarity and responsibility could be put in place… as a bridge until the new Dublin Regulation becomes applicable”.

In this policy paper, first, ECRE sets out its legal and political concerns with the current “ship by ship” approach to relocation of rescued persons, as well as questioning its compatibility with CEAS standards. The paper then elaborates on ECRE’s recommendation for a relocation mechanism for asylum seekers disembarked in EU ports based on fair and effective implementation of rules set out in the existing EU acquis."

German rescue ship named after drowned toddler Alan Kurdi (DW, link):

"The photograph of three-year-old Alan Kurdi's lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach shocked the world in 2015. A German rescue organization has now named a ship after the toddler.

A German migrant rescue ship operating in the Mediterranean was renamed on Sunday after Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian Kurdish boy whose lifeless body washed up on a Turkish shore during the height of Europe's migrant crisis, galvanizing global opinion.

German charity Sea-Eye renamed the ship in the presence of Alan's father, Abdullah Kurdi, and aunt, Tima Kurdi, in Palma on Spain's Balearic Island of Mallorca."

Hungary blocks joint EU-Arab League statement over migration issue (New Europe, link):

"The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini had hoped to secure a leadership role for the 28 members of the European Union in their relations with the members of the Arab League, but much to the chagrin of the Brussels establishment, Hungary stepped in and cratered the plan from within when blocked the issuance of a joint statement by both parties due to the migration issue."

New UN deal with data mining firm Palantir raises protection concerns (IRIN News, link):

"CIA-linked software firm Palantir will help the UN’s World Food Programme analyse its data in a new partnership worth $45 million, both organisations announced Tuesday, drawing immediate flak from privacy and data protection activists.

The California-based contractor, best known for its work in intelligence and immigration enforcement, will provide software and expertise to the UN’s food relief agency over five years to help WFP pool its enormous amounts of data and find cost-saving efficiencies."

EU: Follow the Money II – Report (ECRE, link):

"The Asylum, Migration & Integration Fund (AMIF) 2014-20 aims to contribute, via financial assistance, to the effective management of migration flows and to the implementation and development of a common EU approach to asylum and migration. The AMIF reflects efforts to simplify and streamline the implementation of the European Union budget in the area of home affairs. For the 2014-2020 period, approximately 88% (€2.39bn) of the total AMIF resources of €3.1bn were allocated to Member States that adopted multiannual national programmes.

...The first ‘Follow the Money: Assessing the use of AMIF funding at the national level’ study, published in January 2018, assessed the programming and design of national AMIF funds from a civil society perspective. This second ‘Follow the Money’ study presents:

LIBYA: Minister: Parallel forces under interior ministry dominating decision making in Tripoli (Libya Observer, link):

"The Interior Minister of the Presidential Council, Fathi Bashagha, said there are armed groups and forces that are by name operating under the ministry, but in reality they are executing their own agendas away from the government's orders.

In an interview with BBC Arabic, Bashagha said the parallel forces have some kind of hegemony in the decision making of the government in all fields, including politics, security and economy.

"We have now a parallel interior ministry in Tripoli." He remarked, saying they do own a very huge amount of money to run their operations."

SPAIN: APDHA, EntreFronteras and the Andalusia Union of Journalists call for an end to the information blackout at the southern border

- They consider it a priority to guarantee compliance with the right to life, that rescues respect the legal requirements and that the right to information is preserved
- They denounce the fact that the rescued and deceased persons have remained completely invisible

More needs to be done to improve the situation of migrants and refugees on the Greek islands (Reliefweb, link):

"The humanitarian situation of asylum seekers in the Reception and Identification Centres on Lesbos, Samos and Chios have remained critical for many years, the Committee on Migration warned. Many are housed in tents with inadequate sanitary installations, insufficient food, lacking health services and poor security."

Greece: A Home for Refugees: The Need for Housing Throughout Asylum Procedures and Beyond (pdf):

"Having a place that can be called home is a universal need and a human right. Individuals fleeing violence and asking for asylum in the European Union strive to be safe and to rebuild their lives stepby- step in a country they do not know, often separated from the people they love and with little certainty about their future."

Italy asks Sudan secret police to testify in mistaken identity case (Guardian, link):

"Defence lawyer criticises use of witnesses from regime of ‘cold-blooded dictator’.

Italian prosecutors have controversially invited two high-ranking Sudanese officials to Sicily to testify in the case against a suspected human trafficker who appears to be the victim of mistaken identity.

Magistrates in the case are relying on testimony from the members of the feared secret police in Sudan, which is ruled by Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been charged with war crimes."

No more civilian rescue boats off Libyan coast (Info Migrants, link):

"The civilian rescue vessel Sea Watch 3, which was detained in Italy on Friday, is the latest of such boats to stop operations in the central Mediterranean. Now, only the Libyan Coast Guard is able to save migrants risking their lives at sea in an attempt to reach Europe from North Africa."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (29.1-4.2.19) including:

- Summit of the Southern European Union Countries – Nicosia Declaration
- An “Informal” Turn in the European Union’s Migrant Returns Policy towards Sub-Saharan Africa
- An average of six deaths every day in the sea in 2018


Summit of the Southern European Union Countries – Nicosia Declaration (Cyprus Presidency, link):

"17. Effective reform of the Common European Asylum System, through the swift adoption of the entire comprehensive package of interconnected legislative proposals, should guarantee solidarity and responsibility among the Member States. In addition, the disembarkation of rescued migrants in the Mediterranean should be addressed through permanent solutions, based on the principles of solidarity, responsibility and in the framework of international law, ensuring their order to safeguarding of lives in the Mediterranean. We take into account the pressure on those Member States that are most exposed and already contribute to the rescue of people in danger.

18. Progress has already been achieved, as reflected by the decrease of detected illegal border crossings but migratory routes, such as those running through the Eastern, Central and Western Mediterranean, continue to require close attention. In this regard, the sustained and non-discriminatory implementation of the EU-Turkey Joint Statement of 18 March 2016 and the full and effective implementation of the EU-Turkey readmission agreement and cooperation with all EU Member States in Justice and Home Affairs matters remains essential..."

An “Informal” Turn in the European Union’s Migrant Returns Policy towards Sub-Saharan Africa (Migration Policy Institute, link):

"A not-insignificant share of the European Union’s resident irregular migrant population comes from sub-Saharan Africa. Even though estimates of the unauthorized population in EU Member States are notoriously imprecise, comparing the number of non-EU nationals (formally known as third-country nationals) ordered to leave with the number who departed suggests that the resident unauthorized population has grown by up to 3 million persons over the past ten years. And sub-Saharan African nationals accounted for around one-fourth of this growth, with a significant share coming from Nigeria (13 percent), Senegal (8 percent), and Eritrea (7 percent). Despite increased EU efforts in recent years to work with sub-Saharan countries to accept the return of their nationals, return rates remain low.

...An initial focus by the European Union on formal readmission agreements with migrant-origin countries has given way since 2016 to informal ones. This article examines this informal turn and explores the potential effect that nonbinding readmission pacts could have on migrant returns to sub-Saharan Africa, challenging the assumption that such agreements will have a significant effect on future return levels agreed upon by EU and African policymakers. The analysis also evaluates EU reliance on return totals as an indicator of policy effectiveness and questions whether policy success can be quantified, considering data and other limitations."

Why Hungary's state-sponsored schoolbooks have teachers worried (CNN, link):

"Budapest, Hungary (CNN) - Flick through a Hungarian history book for high school students, and you're left in no doubt about the government's view on migrants.

The section on "Multiculturalism" opens with a photo of refugees camped under a Budapest railway station. Flanking the image is a speech given by strongman Prime Minister Viktor Orban on the perils of migration: "We consider it a value that Hungary is a homogenous country," he says.

The state-sanctioned textbooks are part of a government shakeup of Hungary's education system that is causing deep unease among some teachers and publishers.

Critics say the textbooks are just one front in a government crusade to remake the education system -- and the country -- in its Christian, nationalist image. Orban has also scrapped academic programs that don't fit with his conservative values, effectively forcing one of Hungary's leading universities to move its courses abroad."

A useful summary: Europe’s Determination to Halt African Migration Makes Friends of Dictators (The Globe Post, link):

"The integration of the Sudanese security services means that Europeans are working directly with officials involved in propping up al-Bashir’s regime. Among these agencies are the Rapid Support Forces, an organization fashioned out of the notorious Janjaweed, which terrorized the Darfur region in Western Sudan.

An agreement between European and African states, signed in Malta in 2015, laid the foundations for this cooperation...

This close cooperation has continued and been enhanced, despite the notoriety of the African regimes with which the E.U. has to work. Early in 2019 the role of chairing the Khartoum Process, which regulates this E.U.-African cooperation, will be taken by Eritrea. The fact that Eritrea has one of the worst human rights records in Africa – and is regularly referred to as the “North Korea” of the continent – appears to have given E.U. officials few sleepless nights."

EU-BELARUS: Rights of refugees and migrants violated at EU-equipped borders (Danwatch, link):

"For many years, Belarus has served as a transit country for refugees travelling from the former Soviet Union to Europe, primarily Poland, in search of asylum. Most of the refugees come from Russia, especially from the Chechen Republic.

To limit irregular migration, the EU has made it a priority to provide training and border control equipment to the border authorities in countries along the EU’s eastern land borders. This includes Belarus, whose border authorities have received surveillance cameras, patrol cars and boats, from the EU in order to better detect people crossing their borders.

The border authorities that received the equipment have been implicated in the pushbacks of refugees, however, in violation of their rights, in both 2017 and 2018."

See also: New detention centres part of €7 million EU migration project in Belarus (Statewatch News Online, 1 February 2017)

Are You Syrious (31.1.19, link):

An average of six deaths every day in the sea in 2018

"The UN Refugee Agency published 2018 Desperate Journey report showing a very dark picture of Europe today. Closed borders and hostile policies killed at least 2,275 people in the sea last year, while at least 44 per cent of people who crossed the sea to arrive to Italy, witnessed death on their journeys.

At the same time, Save the Children organization issued a statement saying that among those who died since 2014, there are at least 640 children. Only this year, during 31 days, 64 children died not being able to reach the safety of EU." (...)

January 2019

Sea Watch rescue ship docks in Italy with 47 migrants (DW, link):

"The latest standoff between Italy and the EU over sea rescues has ended with 47 migrants landing in Sicily. The German charity Sea Watch now fears it could be prosecuted and its boat impounded."

Sea Watch migrants to disembark in 'coming hours': Italian PM (DW, link):

"Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Wednesday announced that the migrants on board the Sea Watch charity rescue boat would be allowed to disembark "in the coming hours."

The 47 migrants will be distributed among seven EU member states – Italy, Germany, France, Portugal, Romania, Malta and Luxembourg.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Tuesday ordered Italy to provide medical assistance, food and drinks to the migrants aboard the vessel.

Commenting on Conte's remarks, Sea Watch said that Europe should be "ashamed.""

See also: ECHR grants an interim measure in case concerning the SeaWatch 3 vessel (pdf)

EU: A Member State that has given notice of its intention to withdraw from the EU in accordance with Article 50 TEU remains the responsible State for the purposes of the Dublin III Regulation

"It is for each Member State to determine the circumstances in which it wishes to make use of its discretion and itself carry out the examination of an application for international protection for which it is not responsible"


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

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