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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: February 2020


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (25.2-2.3.20) including:

- Greece: Situation for migrants and refugees goes from bad to worse
- Frontex wants to disembark refugees in Senegal
- Council Presidency and EU agencies want biometric databases for migrants and refugees in the Western Balkans


GREECE: Situation for migrants and refugees goes from bad to worse

The Greek government is in the midst of an unprecedented crackdown against migrants and refugees already on the Aegean islands, as well as against those who are attempting to reach Greece from Turkey. Deploying police and military forces to the land border with Turkey in an attempt to prevent crossings, Greece has also said it will suspend the possibility to request asylum, a clear breach of EU and international law.

Frontex wants to disembark refugees in Senegal (Matthias Monroy, link):

"The EU border agency Frontex wants to bring back refugees picked up in the Atlantic Ocean to Senegal. The EU Commission should therefore negotiate a so-called Status Agreement with the government in Dakar. The proposal can be found in the annual report on the implementation of the Regulation for the surveillance of external sea borders. It regulates the maritime „operational cooperation“ of Frontex with third countries.

It would be the first agreement of this kind with an African government. So far, Frontex has only concluded Status Agreements with a number of Western Balkan countries for the joint surveillance of land borders. The only operation to date in a third country was launched by the Border Agency in Albania a year ago."

See: Annual report on the practical application of Regulation (EU) No 656/2014 establishing rules for the surveillance of the external sea borders in the context of operational cooperation coordinated by Frontex (Council document 6294/20, pdf)

February 2020

Turkey says will not stop Syrian refugees reaching Europe after troops killed (Reuters, link):

"ANKARA/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey will no longer stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe, a senior Turkish official said, as Ankara responded on Friday to the killing of 33 Turkish soldiers in an air strike by Syrian government forces in Syria’s northwestern Idlib region."

Greece invokes coronavirus to halt migration (EUractiv. link):

"In an unexpected move, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis decided on Thursday (27 February) to upgrade border controls to the “maximum deterrent” level to prevent migrants affected with coronavirus from entering EU territory.

“Migration is now taking on a new dimension, as flows to Greece include people from Iran – where we have had many cases of Coronavirus – and many passing through Afghanistan. Our islands, therefore, already burdened with public health issues, need to be protected twice,” the conservative leader said at a ministerial meeting.

The Greek premier added that everything should be done in order to avoid having the coronavirus on these islands. The maximum deterrent level is the last step before closing the borders entirely."

EU experts: closing borders 'ineffective' for coronavirus (euobserver, link):

"EU experts said on Thursday (27 February) that refusing entry to an EU country of people with coronavirus symptoms would be counter-productive and "ineffective" to prevent the spread of the virus.

"Refusal of entry is not considered an appropriate preventive measure as the virus would spread further" since those potential patients would keep moving in the region without being treated, EU sources said."

Analysis: Drones for Frontex: unmanned migration control at Europe’s borders (pdf) by Matthias Monroy:

Instead of providing sea rescue capabilities in the Mediterranean, the EU is expanding air surveillance. Refugees are observed with drones developed for the military. In addition to numerous EU states, countries such as Libya could also use the information obtained.

Council Presidency and EU agencies want biometric databases for migrants and refugees in the Western Balkans

The EU should help introduce the biometric registration of migrants and refugees travelling on the 'Balkan Route', according to the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU, as part of a series of measures to tackle the "threats arising from an increase in migratory flows and smugglers' networks".

'I want to restart the EU's migration debate from scratch': Commissioner Ylva Johansson on sea rescues, relocations and a secret Libyan deal (Times of Malta, link):

"The European commissioner for home affairs is in Malta for discussions on Tuesday in the latest attempt to agree a deal on how to handle the migration crisis. Ahead of the mission, Ylva Johansson answered questions from Jacob Borg about sea rescues, relocations and a secret Libyan deal."

Clashes on Greek islands over new migrant camps (InfoMigrants, link):

"Riot police have clashed with residents on two Greek islands over the construction of new migrant detention centers. The government is insisting that the closed facilities must go ahead to relieve pressure on overcrowded island camps.

On Lesbos, about 500 people reportedly tried to stop heavy machinery from being unloaded on Monday night to begin construction at the site of the new facility.

Police used tear gas on protesters close to the area, some of whom wore surgical masks, news agency reports said. On the island of Chios, at least three people were treated in hospital for breathing difficulties caused by the extensive use of tear gas, according to local officials."

‘Partnerships’ to be at heart of EU-Africa strategy, leaked paper reveals (EurActiv, link):

"The EU will seek to put a series of policy-themed ‘partnerships’ at the heart of its EU-Africa strategy which will be formally launched in early March, according to a leaked draft obtained by EURACTIV.

A draft outline of the strategy states that the EU executive wants to “change the narrative: look at Africa for what it is becoming: home to the world’s youngest population; largest trade area since the creation of the WTO; appetite for regional integration; women’s empowerment; all creating huge economic opportunities.”

It also spells out the areas the EU would cover: Partners for Sustainable Growth and Jobs; for a Green Transition; for a Digital and Data Transformation; Peace, Security, Governance and Resilience; Migration and Mobility; and Multilateralism."

Dodik Stops Bosnia From Cooperating With Frontex (Balkan Insight, link):

"Amid an ongoing dispute over a Constitutional Court ruling that has angered Bosnian Serb politicians, Milorad Dodik, the Serbian member of the state presidency, has stopped Bosnia from signing up to a status agreement with the European Union border agency, Frontex.

At the last session of the three-member Bosnian presidency, Dodik voted against all decisions that were on the agenda. One was the proposal of the Minister of Security, Fahrudin Radoncic, to accept an “Agreement on Status between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Union on Actions Executed by the Agency for European Border and Coast Guard in Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

Frontex had offered to deploy its forces along the Bosnian border to prevent illegal migration – but for that to happen, it needs a so-called Status Agreement."

Analysis: Fort Vert: Nature conservation as border regime in Calais (pdf) by Hanna Rullman:

The construction of a nature reserve in Calais as a way to prevent the return of migrant encampments raises important questions over the political uses of the environment in Europe’s border regime.

Greece has to act regarding “unsustainable situation” for refugees on the islands (Brussels Times, link):

"The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, called on Greece to act regarding “the unsustainable situation” for refugees on the Greek islands on Friday.

These refugees are mainly living on the islands opposite Turkey. Grandi said Greece would have “support from Europe.”

“The living conditions on the islands are shocking and shameful,” Grandi said, adding they had gotten worse since his last visit in November."

Commissioner urges Italy to suspend co-operation activities with Libyan Coast Guard and introduce human rights safeguards in future migration co-operation (CoE, link):

"In a letter addressed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy, Luigi Di Maio, published today, the Commissioner urges the Italian government to introduce human rights safeguards in the Memorandum of Understanding between Italy and Libya.

While noting that discussions to improve human rights compliance in the future are ongoing, the Commissioner calls on Italy to acknowledge the realities currently prevailing on the ground in Libya and to suspend co-operation activities with the Libyan Coast Guard that result in the return of persons intercepted at sea to Libya."

See: Letter (pdf) and: Italian government response (pdf)

 


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (4-24.2.20) including:

- European court under fire for backing Spain's express deportations
- Frontex’s History of Handling Abuse Evidence Dogs Balkan Expansion
- Italy’s Failed Migration Fix Has Led to Chaos in Libya


Back to Mauritania: Frontex repatriates migrants arriving on Canary Islands (InfoMigrants, link):

"On Monday, a Frontex operated repatriation flight took off from Spain’s Canary Islands for Mauritania. 51 African migrants were on board. This is the third such flight this year, says the Spanish Ombudsman. The repatriations are a result of a 2003 agreement signed between Spain and Mauritania.

As the Spanish civil guard was still looking for three boats reported missing off the Canary Islands, other reports were coming through of a Frontex repatriation flight. The flight took off on Monday according to the news agency AFP and the Spanish Ombudsman. It was carrying 51 people aboard."

European Court of Human Rights : Spain and the European Union will prevail the protection of European borders over the right to asylum. (Migreurop, link)

"The European Court of Human Right (ECHR) just took a decision in favour of the Spanish authorities, by endorsing the practice known as “hot push-back” of people trying to reach the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. Although another body of the Court had already condemned Spain in 2017 for this illegal practice [1], its Grand Chamber decided this time that Spain had not violated the rights of the exiles who had already crossed its border by sending them back to Morocco quickly and widely. With this highly serious decision, the ECHR legitimizes the generalization of the principle of non-refoulement. Furthermore, it endorses the impossibility of applying for asylum in case of illegal border crossing and welcomes the good collaboration with Morocco in the repression of exiles."

EU stops Operation Sophia and sends warships to stop Libya weapons trafficking (Malta Today, link)

"The EU has agreed to deploy warships to stop the flow of weapons into Libya, and to wound down the military mission that rescues migrants and refugees from drowning in the Mediterranean.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s chief diplomat, said the new operation with naval ships, planes and satellites will enforce the United Nations arms embargo on Libya.

Countering critcis, especially Italy and Austria, that the operation could turn into a rescue mission, Borrell promised the ships would be withdrawn if they became “a pull factor” that encouraged people to attempt the risky crossing from Libya to Europe."

Ocean Viking saves 182 people in distress on Mediterranean (DW, link):

"At 5:30 a.m., the distress call goes out. A wooden boat overcrowded with displaced people is drifting 130 kilometers (80 miles) off the coast of Libya. When the Ocean Viking, a rescue ship operated by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), receives the call, it is 22 nautical miles (41 kilometers) from the boat. It will take an hour or two to reach it. Nicholas Romaniuk, the search and rescue coordinator aboard the Ocean Viking, changes the vessel's course to intercept the boat."

UN agency calls for new safe harbour rules for migrants from Libya (Euractiv, link):

"The International Organization for Migration on Wednesday (19 February) called on the world community to devise a “safe disembarkation mechanism” for migrants fleeing Libya, the day after a port in the capital of the war-torn country was hit by a barrage of rocket fire.

The IOM, a UN-related agency, called on nations and the European Union “to find an alternative safe disembarkation mechanism for migrants rescued fleeing Libya by boat”.

The call came after “roughly 200 migrants” were returned to Tripoli, hours after the city’s main port was heavily shelled on Tuesday."

Right-wing Serbian Party Launches Anti-Immigration Campaign (BalkanInsight, link):

"Dveri, part of an opposition alliance boycotting April’s parliamentary election, has begun collecting signatures against the government’s policy on immigration."

EU: EEAS calls for changes to Operation Sophia so "chances to conduct rescue operations are lower"

The European External Action Service (EEAS) has called on EU governments to limit the saving of lives at sea by Operation Sophia. A note sent to the member states' permanent representatives in Brussels says the mission should prioritise the enforcement of a UN arms embargo on Libya, rather than monitoring migrant smuggling activities, and suggests that ships could be placed "at least 100km off the Libyan coast, where chances to conduct rescue operations are lower."

EU: Joint statement: The new Pact on Asylum and Migration: An Opportunity Seized or Squandered? (ECRE, link):

"After years of treating asylum and migration in crisis mode, we believe the proposed Pact on Asylum and Migration is an opportunity for the EU and its Member States to change direction. It is an opportunity to develop a rational and rights-based asylum and migration policy. Recent cooperation among Member States signals the possibility of a fresh start, which should build on the lessons of the recently attempted and largely failed reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). However, there is a risk that the Pact may include or prepare the groundwork for damaging legislative proposals, in particular what has been termed the “border instrument”."

NETHERLANDS: Half the children in final refugee amnesty review can stay (DutchNews.nl, link)

"Just over half the refugee children hoping to be given residency rights in the Netherlands in a final review of the child refugee amnesty have won the right to stay.

In total, 569 out of 1,100 children have been given residency permits, along with 502 adult family members, junior justice minister Ankie Broekers-Knol told MPs on Wednesday.

The cases of 263 children were given an automatic review, after MPs agreed to soften the criteria in a final attempt to end the problems around the amnesty early last year.

Of those 263 cases, 235 were granted residency. In addition, a further 837 children applied for the amnesty who were not part of the automatic review. Most of those cases were rejected, but 334 children were given a residency permit, Broekers-Knol said."

ECHR-SPAIN: European court under fire for backing Spain's express deportations

"The European court of human rights has been accused of “completely ignoring the reality” along the continent’s borders after it ruled that Spain acted lawfully when it summarily deported two people who tried to scale the border fence separating Morocco from Spanish territory six years ago."

Germany is not implementing its promise to accept refugees - Deutschland setzt seine Versprechen zur Flüchtlingsaufnahme nicht um (Tagesspiel, link):

Germany fails to keep its promise to relocate a quarter of migrants and refugees who arrived in Southern Europe since the Malta agreement in September, according to a list submitted to the Tagesspiegel by the Federal Minister of Interior of Germany. The only time Germany relocated people was one day after the Malta Agreement was signed; the country took in 47 shipwreck survivors. Germany indicated that 309 more persons were pending. Stephan Mayer, a German politician, declared in mid-January that 501 persons had been transferred to Germany so far and insinuated that the Malta agreement had been successful. However, the list now shows that this number is the sum of previous rescue operations since summer 2018, the year before the Malta Agreement.

Via: Europe External Policy Advisers (link)

GREECE: PRESS RELEASE: A criminal complaint was filed regarding the death of a 31-year-old Iranian national at the Pre-Removal Detention Centre of Moria (Lesvos Legal Centre, link):

"February 6, 2020, Mytilene, Lesvos – on 29th January a criminal complaint was filed before the public prosecutor of the first instance court of Mytilene by five NGO attorneys, offering free legal aid to the asylum seekers in Lesvos, with the request to investigate the precise reasons and conditions of the death of the 31-year-old Iranian man, who, according to the report of the online journal “StoNisi”, dated 06/01/2020, was found hanged in the pre-removal detention center of Moria in the morning of that day."

Refugee Camps at EU External Borders, the Question of the Union’s Responsibility, and the Potential of EU Public Liability Law (Verfassungsblog, link):

"‘The EU hotspot approach as implemented in Greece is the single most worrying fundamental rights issue that we are confronting anywhere in the European Union’. This quote by the head of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) might sound drastic. Yet, it is not far-fetched. EU bodies, national institutions, international organisations including the Council of Europe, and NGOs, have, during the past four years, continuously documented that the asylum processing centres at the EU external borders lead to fundamental rights violations on a daily basis. The EU hotspot administration indeed jeopardises the respect for fundamental rights and the rule of law as enshrined in Article 2 TEU.

Usually, when something is going wrong, a first step towards improvement is to ask: who is responsible? And yet, with regard to EU hotspots, this question is still subject to debate. Responsibilities are effectively blurred by the sheer number of actors operating in those centres combined with a lack of legal clarity...

It is argued here that EU public liability law—more specifically: an action for damages against the Union or its agencies Frontex and EASO—has a particular potential in this context. First, it would help secure the right to an effective remedy to concerned individuals. Second, it would thereby serve to address systemic deficiencies in the EU hotspot administration. Third, it could ultimately provide an answer to the crucial question of whether the Union is responsible for fundamental rights violations in EU hotspots."

UK: Psychological coercion in the hostile environment (IRR, link):

"Join us for a crucial seminar that will explore both the coercive and the exploitative sides of the government’s hostile environment policies.

Speakers will discuss a) the operations of a coercive psychological programme which stigmatises migrants and asylum seekers as ‘scroungers’ and ‘bogus’ and b) how hostile environment policies create profits for the state, through questionable charging regimes and the exploitation of the work of migrants in immigration removal centres."

French police clear last refugee camp in Paris (Al Jazeera, link):

"French police have cleared the last refugee tent camp in northeastern Paris, moving 427 people to shelters as part of a plan to take migrants off the streets.

The group, which included four women, were living in 266 tents and makeshift shelters in a canal-side camp "strewn with waste and refuse, overrun by rats and giving off a pestilent and foul-smelling odour of urine and excrement", according to the authorities."

Frontex’s History of Handling Abuse Evidence Dogs Balkan Expansion (Balkan Insight, link):

"Internal documents reviewed by BIRN show that the head of Frontex rejected a recommendation in 2016 from the agency’s own compliance watchdog to suspend operations on the Hungarian-Serbian border amid concerns of complicity in rights violations by Hungarian officers.

Among the reported acts of brutality: the use of batons, teargas and pepper spray on asylum seekers — including children — and violent “pushbacks” of refugees and migrants into northern Serbia.

Meanwhile, as Frontex expands its footprint into non-EU countries in Southeast Europe, critics say agreements between the agency and Western Balkan governments will allow Frontex staff to operate with a worrying level of impunity for any wrongdoing."

Italy’s Failed Migration Fix Has Led to Chaos in Libya (Foreign Policy, link):

"ROME—Over three days in May 2017, the Italian secret service—masquerading as a humanitarian nongovernmental organization—summoned to Rome two dozen delegates from the southern edge of the Sahara desert. The pretext was to promote a peace deal for their war-torn region; the real goal was to bring them on board with an Italian plan to curb migration.

The details of the meetings, published here for the first time, expose the pitfalls of a foreign policy that conflates peace and development with migration control. This was just one piece of a wider set of European initiatives with similar features, now widely regarded as a failure by analysts and policymakers. In Libya, they contributed to igniting a humanitarian catastrophe."


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

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