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

This Observatory covers the arrival of refugees and migrants, the reactions and failures within the EU (both governmental and within communities).

Edited by Tony Bunyan. See: "We are ashamed": Statement on Mediterranean: "The EU is behaving shamefully"

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Archives: March 2020


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (17-23.3.20) including:

- Anti-migration cooperation between the EU, Italy and Libya: some truths
-
Erdogan in talks with European leaders over refugee cash for Turkey
- COVID-19: No one is safe until All are protected!


Statewatch Analysis: Italy renews Memorandum with Libya, as evidence of a secret Malta-Libya deal surfaces (pdf) by Yasha Maccanico:

The 2017 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Italy and Libya was tacitly renewed without amendments on 2 February 2020, amid widespread criticism over its legality and effects since October 2019. This article outlines the parliamentary debate that accompanied the interior minister's declared intention to renew the MoU in November 2019.

Statewatch Analysis: Anti-migration cooperation between the EU, Italy and Libya: some truths (pdf) by Yasha Maccanico:

Apart from a regression in human rights standards that immigration policy is producing within the EU's borders by promoting racism in politics and institutional discrimination in pursuit of its strategic objectives, the effects of EU migration policy's externalisation to third countries are also harmful.

EU-ERITREA: European Commission: We will fight forced labour in Eritrea by financing projects that use it

"...The EU-funded project only finances the procurement and supply of material and equipment — the EU does not pay for labour..."

Samos Refugees: We see a Darkness (Samos, Chronicles, link):

"For the refugees, coronavirus is a fused bomb. When, rather than if it blows it will be devastating. The appalling conditions in which refugees are held which blatantly contradict all the government’s instructions on hygiene and overcrowding make the camps and detention facilities exceptionally vulnerable to the virus. The police describe the island camps as “health bombs”.

The police associations from Samos, Lesvos, Chios and the North and South Dodecanese are now demanding urgent action. The timing of their intervention is driven by the extremely cruel and unhealthy conditions for the 1,414 refugees who arrived on the islands after March 1st 2020. Following the Act passed on March 2 2020 all new arrivals are denied the right to apply for asylum. This is a major breach of international law, but more of that later. There is no registration or identification procedures for these new arrivals who are kept away from the pre March deadline refugees and detained, as the police noted in their letter to the government (14/3/2020);

Stacked like animals in temporary and inadequate infrastructure acting as ticking health bombs. On Samos there are 93 foreigners in a room of the Port Authority without a toilet or water supply.”

Erdogan in talks with European leaders over refugee cash for Turkey (The Guardian, link):

"Turkey has pressed European leaders to make fresh cash pledges to prevent tens of thousands of refugees from leaving the country and trying to reach Europe amid a Russian-Syrian offensive in north-west Syria.

After intense bombardment in Idlib province last month, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, encouraged thousands of refugees in the country to move on towards the Greek islands and the Baltics, in a repeat of the surge to Europe in 2015.

That push ended when the EU gave Turkey €6bn to house the refugees in Turkey. Nearly €4.7bn has been contractually awarded, but only about €3.2bn paid out.

In a phone call on Tuesday between the French president, Emmanuel Macron, the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and Erdogan, the leaders discussed the possibility of a new refugee deal, ways to combat the continued Russian threat in Idlib, and the fear that coronavirus could sweep through the refugee camps bordering Syria in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan."

Open access book: Europe and the Refugee Response: A Crisis of Values? (Routledge, link):

"This book explores how the rising numbers of refugees entering Europe from 2015 onwards played into fears of cultural, religious, and ethnic differences across the continent. The migrant, or refugee crisis, prompted fierce debate about European norms and values, with some commentators questioning whether mostly Muslim refugees would be able to adhere to these values, and be able to integrate into a predominantly Christian European society. In this volume, philosophers, legal scholars, anthropologists and sociologists, analyze some of these debates and discuss practical strategies to reconcile the values that underpin the European project with multiculturalism and religious pluralism, whilst at the same time safeguarding the rights of refugees to seek asylum.

Country case studies in the book are drawn from France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom; representing states with long histories of immigration, countries with a more recent refugee arrivals, and countries that want to keep refugees at bay and refuse to admit even the smallest number of asylum seekers. Contributors in the book explore the roles which national and local governments, civil society, and community leaders play in these debates and practices, and ask what strategies are being used to educate refugees about European values, and to facilitate their integration."

Over 400 migrants returned to Libya over weekend (InfoMigrants, link):

"Over 400 migrants have been picked up by the Libyan coast guard and returned to Libya over the weekend. That’s according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which called the action “unacceptable.”

The UN organization for migration decried the fact that this weekend, over 400 Europe-bound migrants were returned to Libya by the Libyan coast guard in several operations. The IOM counted 301 people who were intercepted and taken back to Tripoli on Saturday, March 14 and a further 105 on two different boats on Sunday, March 15.

The IOM communications officer Safa Msehli said: "It is unacceptable for this to continue despite repeated calls to put an end to the return of vulnerable people to detention and abuse.""

And see: 49 asylum seekers in Maltese waters taken back to Libya and beaten - NGO (Times of Malta, link)

COVID-19: No one is safe until All are protected! (Transbalkan Solidarity Group, link):

"Currently there are tens of thousands of refugees and other migrants in the Balkans. Some of them are accommodated in official collective centers, while a large number of people fall outside the system, surviving through the help of the local population and support provided to them by volunteers throughout the region. Yet with the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the already difficult situation in which they find themselves is becoming even more challenging and demands urgent action of those in charge – local and international actors – and solidarity from all of us.

The State of Emergency now in force in many countries of the region is a basis for the continuation and reinforcement of social inequalities and unfortunately is already serving as a rationale for the further stigmatization and repression of the most unprotected among us. But this exceptional situation must not become an excuse for continued policies of exclusion, restriction and expulsion, suffering and distress."

And see: Us versus them? Covid-19 and its effects (MPC, link): "We now see that every one of us can suddenly can become vulnerable. As humans, we have much more in common, than what divides us: our fears, our anxieties, and how we react in difficult situations. Our humanity is also our strength, being able to put ourselves into the shoes of others, now more than ever."

UNHCR: Key Legal Considerations on access to territory for persons in need of international protection in the context of the COVID-19 response (pdf):

"This paper sets out key legal considerations, based on international refugee and human rights law, on access to territory for persons seeking international protection in the context of measures taken by States to restrict the entry of non-nationals for the protection of public health in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It reconfirms that while States may put in place measures which may include a health screening or testing of persons seeking international protection upon entry and/or putting them in quarantine, such measures may not result in denying them an effective opportunity to seek asylum or result in refoulement."

And see: EU border restrictions will hit transfers of child refugees - UN official (Thomson Reuters Foundation, link)

 


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (10-16.3.20) including:

- Little new on migration in Commission's plan for a "comprehensive strategy with Africa"
-
More calls for EU and Greece to uphold international law and refugee rights
- Turkey steps back from confrontation at Greek border
- Border externalisation: agreements on Frontex ops in Serbia and Montenegro head for approval


EU: Little new on migration in Commission's plan for a "comprehensive strategy with Africa"

Last week the European Commission published a communication setting out a plan for a "comprehensive strategy with Africa", which includes "migration and mobility" amongst its five key themes. The document is intended to frame talks between the EU and the AU as they move towards a summit in October this year.

Xenophobia and racism are killing people on the Greek-Turkish border! The European Union is also! (Gisti, link):

"Over the past few days, people have been killed on the Greek-Turkish border! This is a direct consequence of political decisions by European leaders who would like to seal off European Union borders at all costs, notably by subcontracting the examination of asylum applications to non-European States and the encampment of undesirables. Everyday brings new unbearable images showing asylum seekers being pushed out or deliberately put in danger.

(...)

A recently established coalition of organisations against border violence has announced that complaints will be lodged against Greece and the EU for violating the rights of people fleeing Turkey. States and the EU decision-makers behind them must not be allowed to commit such abuses with impunity.

We support this initiative and call for protest rallies wherever possible. A demonstration is planned at Place de la République in Paris on 18 March at 6:30 p.m. Videos denouncing the border violence are to be shown. "

The European Parliament must intervene to stop violence, the use of force and human rights violations at the EU-Turkey border (change.org, link):

"We call on the European Parliament and the political groups representing the EU citizens to stop violence and the use of force against defenseless people at the EU-Turkey border and to restore legality and respect for human rights, firstly the right of asylum.

What is happening is the result of wrong choices made with the aim of externalizing borders and preventing people fleeing from wars and persecutions from arriving in Europe to seek protection.
"

Report ‘Follow the Money III’ - Solidarity: The use of AMIF funds to Incentivise Resettlement and Relocation in the EU (ECRE, link):

"The third ‘Follow the Money’ report maps and assesses the use of financial incentives (lump sums) allocated under the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) to EU Member States (MS) participating in refugee resettlement and intra-EU relocation. The four case studies, France, Italy Portugal and Slovenia provide a range of national contexts and practices within the role and impact of EU funding is explored. The research draws on the first two ‘Follow the Money’ studies published by ECRE and UNHCR in 2017 and 2018 tracking the use of AMIF for asylum, integration and return.

Member States resettled 76,205 persons during 2014-18, via both EU schemes and national programmes with uneven participation among MS. The study finds that the funding under the lump sum modality, €6,000 per resettled person, increasing to €10,000 when the resettled person falls into one of the categories included under common Union resettlement priorities, is an effective mechanism to provide EU funding. The reduction or removal would most likely lead to reductions in resettlement numbers and/or programmes that offer less support to resettled persons."

ECRE on the situation for refugees in Greece: Weekly Editorial: About Time Too (link):

"At the EU-Turkey border the situation remains alarming, and ECRE continued to speak out against the actions of the Greek government and the apparent support from the EU’s political leadership, and to promote the alternative response set out in our statement and urged by Greek NGOs. It is a relief though to see some signs of a change in approach.

On Thursday, Commissioner Johansson gave an interview to the Guardian which contained a warning to Greece on the need to respect the right to asylum; this was – hopefully – followed by a presentation of these warnings in person during her visit to the country.

Separately, the Commission announced a plan to relocate to other Member States 1600 children from the Greek islands, a very welcome initiative, and one that ECRE and others have supported for years... All these developments are though just the first steps towards a positive and rights-based approach from Europe; following through on it will require the following."

See also: EU to take in some child migrants stuck in Greece (BBC News, link): "Five EU countries [Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Portugal] have agreed to take in some migrant children who are stuck in Greece, amid continuing tension on the Greek-Turkish border."

Turkey Steps Back From Confrontation at Greek Border (New York Times, link):

"BRUSSELS — Turkey has signaled that it is winding down its two-week operation to aid the movement of tens of thousands of people toward Europe, following a tough on-the-ground response from Greek border guards and a tepid diplomatic reaction from European politicians.

Migrants at the Greek-Turkish land border began to be transported back to Istanbul by bus this week, witnesses at the border said, de-escalating a standoff that initially set off fears of another European migration crisis. Greek officials said the number of attempted border crossings had dwindled from thousands a day to a few hundred, and none were successful on Friday, even as sporadic exchanges of tear-gas with Turkish security forces continued.

Also Friday, Turkish officials announced that three human smugglers had each been sentenced to 125 years in prison for their roles in the death of a Syrian toddler, Alan Kurdi, whose drowning came to epitomize an earlier migration crisis, in 2015.

That announcement and the week’s other developments were interpreted by experts and European politicians as signals to Europe that the Turkish authorities were once again willing to police their borders and quell a second wave of migration."

Migrants on Greek islands to be offered €2,000 to go home (The Guardian, link):

"Migrants on the Greek islands are to be offered €2,000 (£1,764) per person to go home under a voluntary scheme launched by the European Union in an attempt to ease desperate conditions in camps.

The amount is more than five times the usual sum offered to migrants to help them rebuild their lives in their country of origin, under voluntary returns programmes run by the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The offer will last one month, as the commission fears an open-ended scheme would attract more migrants to Europe. It will not apply to refugees who have no homes to return to, but is intended to incentivise migrants seeking better living standards to leave the islands."

Returned to War and Torture: Malta and Frontex coordinate push-back to Libya (Alarm Phone, link):

"On Saturday, 14 March 2020, RCC Malta coordinated a push-back operation from the Maltese Search and Rescue (SAR) zone to Libya in cooperation with the EU border agency Frontex and the so-called Libyan coastguards. Similar to the events we documented on 18 October 2019, the Maltese authorities instructed the so-called Libyan coastguards to enter a European SAR zone in order to abduct about 49 people and force them back to Libya. Instead of complying with refugee and human rights conventions, the Maltese authorities coordinated a grave violation of international law and of the principle of non-refoulment, as the rescued must be disembarked in a safe harbour. Clearly, Libya is not a safe harbour but a place of war and systemic human rights abuses. Every week, the Alarm Phone receives testimonies of torture, rape and other forms of violence against migrants detained in Libyan camps and prisons."

New EU migration pact must dust off fundamental rights (EUobserver, link):

"The EU's new Pact on Migration and Asylum is an opportunity to take a different approach. To take a breath, to remember the values that the European project was founded upon, and to dust off the good old fundamental rights and put them to use.

Not merely for the benefit of the European citizens, but also for those fleeing conflict and violence and seeking protection in Europe.

While the scale of global displacement is high and the challenges related to irregular migration are real in Europe and beyond, the situation remains manageable.

It requires the political leadership to insist on facts, instead of contributing to instilling unnecessary fear and insecurity in the European public by supporting unhelpful narratives of unmanageable movements and unprecedented crisis."

Frontex launches new operations in Greece (link): by Matthias Monroy:

"In two RABIT missions, the EU Border Agency is sending 100 additional officials to the Greek-Turkish land and sea border. Frontex currently have around 600 operational forces stationed in Greece.

Fontex has started two new missions in Greece. Following a decision by Director Fabrice Leggeri, the EU Border Agency is sending border guards with technical assets to the Aegean Sea. A further mission has been launched today to reinforce police and military units for border surveillance on the land border with Turkey. This follows a request by the government in Athens."

Revealed: the great European refugee scandal (Guardian, link):

"Evidence obtained by the Guardian exposes a coordinated and unlawful EU assault on the rights of desperate people trying to cross the Mediterranean by Daniel Howden, Apostolis Fotiadis and Zach Campbell. (...)

As night fell on 26 March 2019, two small boats made their way north across the Mediterranean. The rubber crafts were flimsy; it would be nearly impossible for those onboard to make it to Europe without help. From the north, a twin-propeller aeroplane from the European Union naval force approached. From the south, the coastguard from the country they had just fled, Libya, was coming. (...)

Seagull 75 circled overhead. The flight crew was part of Operation Sophia, an EU naval mission that has patrolled the south-central Mediterranean since 2015. After participating in thousands of rescues in its first four years, Sophia withdrew its sea vessels from March 2019, leaving only aircraft in the rescue zone. It came to be known as the naval mission without any ships.(...)"

Coronavirus: How are Middle East refugee camps prepared? (DW, link):

"With the Syrian health care system "on its knees," according to the World Health Organization, refugee camps across the region are also facing the potential threat of COVID-19. So far, no cases have been found."

Erdogan says border will stay open until EU meets his demands (New Europe, link):

"Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Wednesday he would keep the border open for migrants until the European Union had met all his demands.

“Until all Turkey’s expectations, including free movement, updating of the customs union and financial assistance, are tangibly met, we will continue the practice on our borders”, he said."

Greece denies report of secret ‘black site’ for migrants near Turkish border (Euractiv, link):

"The Greek government dismissed on Wednesday (11 March) a report in The New York Times that it was holding illegal migrants who cross the border from Turkey at a secret “black site” where they are denied access to lawyers and cannot file asylum claims".

EU: Justice & Home Affairs Council 14 March 2020 : Background Note (pdf)

"In the morning, home affairs ministers will exchange views on the strategic guidelines for justice and home affairs, with a view to their endorsement ahead of the March European Council meeting.Theywill then come back to the situation at the EU's external borderswith Turkey. The Council will further develop the EU's response to needs expressed by Greece.

Over lunch, ministers responsible for civil protection issues will discuss the coronavirus outbreak.

Representatives of the Schengen associated countriesIceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland will also be present for the point on the situation at the EU's external borders"

See: Greece warned by EU it must uphold the right to asylum (Guardian, link)

EU: Border externalisation: Agreements on Frontex operations in Serbia and Montenegro heading for parliamentary approval

On 29 January the civil liberties committee of the European Parliament (LIBE) approved the conclusion of status agreements on the actions on the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) on the territory of two neighbouring non-EU states - Serbia and Montenegro.

Frontex border operation in Greece 'lacks legal basis' after Greece suspends asylum law (euronews, link):

"Experts have questioned the legality of EU border agency Frontex sending officers to the Greek-Turkish border.

Thousands have massed on the frontier after Ankara said it could no longer stop refugees in Turkey from heading to Europe.

Frontex, which manages the European Union's external borders, is deploying reinforcements to Evros from 11 March.

But experts have told Euronews this move "lacks proper legal basis".

This is because Greece - already with a huge backlog - suspended the reception of asylum applications for a month on 1 March."

Are You Syrious? Daily Digest 06/03/20 — MEP Joins Far-Right Vigilantes in Greece (Medium, link):

"Feature: Golden Dawn MEP Among Fascist Vigilantes Attacking People in Greece

Ioannis Lagos, a longtime member of the far-right Golden Dawn party, was spotted at the Greek-Turkish border in Evros. He was photographed with members of local so-called “protection” groups and at least two police officers.

A far-right website published his activities, saying he was “actively participating in patrols organized by locals, to locate & turn over to the authorities the illegal immigrants-jihadists, that are crossing the borders by the thousands.” Clearly, he is an active participant in the violence being perpetrated against vulnerable people at the border and is making no effort to hide his presence.

This is not the first violent action that Lagos has participated in."

Greek-Turkish border: MEPs reject Turkey’s pressure, demand common asylum rules (EP, link):

"The EU must help Greece manage its border with Turkey, while ensuring the right to asylum for those who need it, several MEPs said on Tuesday.

In a debate with Commissioner Johansson and the Croatian Presidency of the Council, a majority of speakers criticised Turkish President Erdogan for using people’s suffering for political purposes. Many also underlined that the 2015 refugee crisis should not be repeated and insisted that the EU needs to update its common rules on asylum.

Some political group leaders called for a revision of the deal with Turkey, which was hammered out in 2016 to stem the flow of migrants and asylum-seekers in exchange for EU financial aid. Others showed deep concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation both at the border with Turkey and on the Greek islands, where thousands of asylum-seekers, many of them unaccompanied minors, are stranded."

See also: Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson: European Parliament Plenary - Opening statement to debate on situation at Greek-Turkish border (pdf)

Bulgaria is not changing its push-back policy at its border to Turkey (Bordermonitoring Bulgaria, link):

"Media reported that FRONTEX installed 60 additional staff members to the already existing 50 ones at the Bulgarian-Turkish border. This raises the question of whether FRONTEX will only watch the Bulgarian authorities while they go on with their push-back practice in the upcoming days. Until now, the number of crossing incidents around the Turkish-Bulgarian border near Kapikule/Kapitan Andreevo seem much lower in comparison to the Greek-Turkish border around Pazarkule/Kastanies – both border crossings are only about 10 km away from each other."

HRW denounces Greece over migrants held on warship (Yahoo! News, link):

"Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday called on Greece to reverse its "draconian policy" towards over 450 migrants detained on a navy ship docked in Mytilene port in Lesbos.

The men, women and children were among those picked up by the Greek Coast Guard since March 1, when Turkey decided to open its borders and let make the crossing.

Since Turkey's February 28 decision, more than 1,700 people have arrived on the Greek islands in the Aegean off the Turkish coast."

Fire breaks out at refugee centre on Greek island of Lesbos (The Guardian, link):

"A fire at a refugee centre on the Greek island of Lesbos has caused considerable damage to a warehouse but no injuries, Greece’s fire service said.

It was the second fire at an installation built for migrants, after unknown perpetrators burned down a reception centre last Monday. The warehouse, which contained furniture and electrical appliances, was completely destroyed, a fire service spokesman said."

Bulgaria Floods Evros River to Prevent Migrants Storming Greek Borders (Greek Reporter, link):

"At the request of Greece, Bulgaria opened an Evros River dam located on its territory on Monday in order to cause intentional flooding and make it more difficult for migrants amassed at the Greek-Turkish border to cross the river.

The opening of the Ivaylovgrad Dam accordingly resulted in rising levels of the Evros River, Star TV reported.

As the standoff between thousands of migrants and refugees on the Turkish side of the Evros and Greek security forces continues, PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis met his German counterpart Angela Merkel in Berlin and stressed that Greece and Europe cannot be blackmailed."

Statewatch Analysis: Frontex launches "game-changing" recruitment drive for standing corps of border guards (pdf) by Jane Kilpatrick:

On 4 January 2020 the Management Board of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) adopted a decision on the profiles of the staff required for the new “standing corps”, which is ultimately supposed to be staffed by 10,000 officials. The decision ushers in a new wave of recruitment for the agency. Applicants will be put through six months of training before deployment, after rigorous medical testing..

Aegean Boat Report

"Arrival number from 01.03.2020, 902 people and all arrivals in week 10, 816 People has not been added to the population number by greek government, reason unknown but can be related to lates Development on the greek islands where new arrivals are denied to seek asylum."

Amid migrant crisis, Greece-Turkey conflict plays out on social media (euractiv, link):

"Greeks and Turks are waging a proxy war on social media with photos, video and commentary purporting to show the other side behaving badly in a migrant crisis that has seriously strained already tense relations between Athens and Ankara."

 


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (3-9.3.20) including:

- Open letters, joint statements, responses to the situation at the Greek-Turkish border
- Danish boat in Aegean refused order to push back rescued migrants
- EU governments ‘harassing’ those who help migrants


CYPRUS: KISA calls on the Minister to retract his defamatory statements and to proceed to a dialogue with the stakeholders and NGOs concerned (press release, pdf):

"The government has reacted to the increased refugee and migrant flows of the last 2-3 years with an ever more extreme right narrative, which comprises, among others, interconnecting migrants and refugees to matters of security, terrorism, unemployment and social cohesion. According to this narrative, refugees are channelled by Turkey following a plan that aims at changing the demographic nature and the full control of Cyprus.

It seems that KISA with its critical positions and views against this narrative annoys the establishment as well as other extreme right and nationalistic circles. That is why, there is lately a systematic attempt targeting, smearing and mudslinging of the work and action of KISA and its leadership by a section of the printed and electronic media that agrees and supports the extreme right policies of the executive branch."

See also: Letter from the European Network Against Racism to the Cyprus interior minister: Your statements on ENAR on Radio Proto 1, 24 February 2020 (pdf)

Open letter: EUROPE MUST ACT FOR THE IMMEDIATE DECONGESTION OF THE AEGEAN ISLANDS (pdf):

"The Aegean Islands have descended into crisis. 5 years of neglectful EU policy has finally culminated in days of protest ( 1 , 2 ), NGOs threatened with violence, and mass strikes across the islands. Whilst over 42,000 asylum seekers reside on these islands, there is capacity for just 6,178 ( 1 ). Now, communities are braced for a surge in arrivals as Turkey has opened its borders, reneging on the EU-Turkey agreement.

This ongoing political stalemate between the EU, Greece and Turkey must be resolved. This game, played by the powerful, is putting innocent human lives at risk. It must stop now. Added to this already volatile mix is rising panic over the coronavirus. With healthcare severely lacking in the hotspot camps, NGOs fear that an outbreak would have disastrous consequences."

Common statement: Transnational solidarity against racism and war! (link):

"Hundreds of groups and organizations worldwide sign multilingual statement demanding peace, fundamental rights and freedoms of every person on the move.

Five years after the so-called “refugee crisis” and almost four years after the EU-Turkey deal, we are once again witnessing the violence caused by security-centred migration policies. Since last Thursday (27.02.2020), thousands of people have been moving towards the Turkey-Greece border following the announcement that migrants wanting to reach Europe will no longer be stopped on the Turkish side. The announcement from Turkish government officials came after the death of 33 Turkish soldiers in the Idlib area, where conflict escalation has seen the civilian death toll rapidly increase by the day, with basic infrastructure and health facilities being blatantly fired at. Turkish government keeps its borders with Syria closed while seeing no harm in pushing thousands of migrants towards the doors of Europe, into a limbo."

"Protect our laws and humanity!" - Open Letter by 120 Organizations

The undersigned organisations are deeply concerned about recent developments at the Evros border and the Aegean islands where people are stranded at the borders of Europe, instrumentalized for political purposes, and subject to violations of their rights. We are also deeply concerned about the way the authorities of Greece and the European Union are handling new arrivals. Equally alarming are the extreme actions by security forces against refugees and by civilians against staff of human rights and humanitarian organizations. We would also like to point out that the climate of panic and rhetoric of 'asymmetric threat' -also promoted by the authorities- does not reflect reality and seriously affects not only vulnerable refugees- but also our society and the rule of law as a whole.

GUE/NGL MEPs' letter to the Commission and Council on the situation at the Greek-Turkish border (3 March 2020, pdf):

"We, as Members of the European Parliament call upon you to ensure immediate action in such a way that it will ensure that Turkey immediately stops end the use of people fleeing war as political bargaining chip and as a tool for geo-political pressure to Greece and Europe as a whole. We call upon you to ensure effective access to protection in full respect of the Geneva Convention and EU law and to do so based on equal sharing of all challenges and responsibilities among all the EU Member States.

We call upon you to take all necessary and immediate actions, including via an extraordinary EU Summit, in order to ensure the evacuation of seekers of international protection from the Greek islands and the land borders with Turkey, their immediate transfer to all the EU Member States and, in parallel, to enable the functioning of a fair and effective common asylum system and the creation of safe and legal pathways to the EU."

Council of the EU: Statement on the situation at the EU's external borders (Consilium, link):

"The EU and its Member States remain determined to effectively protect EU’s external borders. Illegal crossings will not be tolerated. In this regard, the EU and its Member States will take all necessary measures, in accordance with EU and international law. Migrants should not be encouraged to endanger their lives by attempting illegal crossings by land or sea. The Council calls upon the Turkish government and all actors and organisations on the ground to relay this message and counter the dissemination of false information. The EU will continue to actively fight human smuggling.

All Member States, the European Commission and EU Agencies stand ready to strengthen their support to areas under pressure, including through the deployment of FRONTEX’s rapid border intervention and additional technical assistance. Member States will swiftly provide the support necessary to ensure the immediate deployment of the relevant teams and assets. The Commission will play an active role in coordinating Member States' support."

EU: A coalition to “shield” migrants and refugees against violence at the borders - We will hold Greece and the EU accountable for the violations of the rights of migrants and refugees fleeing Turkey (Migreurop, link):

"We firmly condemn the instrumental use of migrants and refugees by the EU and Turkey, and the Greek and EU operations deployed to prevent them from reaching European soil. No policy aim can justify such gross violations. Exiles fleeing violence must not face the violence of borders while they seek protection. Our organisations are joining their efforts to hold states accountable for their crimes. We plan to document and take legal action against those responsible for the violations of migrants and refugees’ rights, as well as those of activists acting in solidarity with them. We will employ our investigative and legal instruments to block state violence and reverse the deeply worrying trend towards the multiplication of push-backs in Greece, – a trend observable to different degrees across the EU’s shifting borders. Migrants and refugees are not a threat the EU should shield itself against, but are themselves threatened by state violence all along their precarious trajectories. We aim to use the tools of human rights to shield migrants and refugees from the brutality targeting them."

Europe’s Morality Is Dying at the Greek Border (Foreign Policy, link):

"This week, Greece’s northern border with Turkey and the Bulgarian-Turkish borderlands, too, have witnessed brutal, violent scenes reminiscent of war zones. Thousands of desperate migrants fleeing war zones—including mothers with babies in their arms—are storming barbed-wire fences to get into European Union territory to apply for political asylum, while Greek security forces in anti-riot gear beat them back and shoot rubber bullets and billowing clouds of tear gas at them. On the easternmost Greek islands, such as Lesbos, the Greek coast guard and navy have been turning away dinghies of half-frozen, frightened refugees. More than 32,000 migrants have been arrested at the Greek land border."

Joint statement on the ongoing violence at the Greece-Turkey border (Forensic Architecture, link):

"Today, together with more than a dozen NGOs, legal agencies, and activist groups, we published a statement (below) on the ongoing violence against refugees and migrants at the Greece-Turkey border, which has already resulted in multiple reports of serious injuries, as well as the death of 22-year-old Muhammad al-Arab. Watch our preliminary investigation into his death here"

Danish boat in Aegean refused order to push back rescued migrants (Politico, link):

"A Danish patrol boat monitoring the Aegean sea refused an order to push back migrants they rescued, Danish officials told public broadcaster DR.

The Danish boat was patrolling the sea between Turkey and Greece's easternmost islands as part of Operation Poseidon, a border surveillance mission in support of Greece, coordinated by EU border protection agency Frontex.

Jens Møller, the police chief in charge of the Danish unit participating in the operation, told DR that the crew had rescued 33 migrants headed for Greece in a rubber dinghy when they received a radio order from Operation Poseidon's headquarters to put the migrants back into to their dinghy and tow it out of Greek waters.

The crew refused the order, believing it would endanger the lives of the migrants."

Migrants: EU commission not fit to guard treaties (EUobserver, link):

"Asked if it was legal for Greece to suspend asylum claims for a month as Greece has done, the commission announced it had no "authority to have a definitive legal opinion or legal doctrine."

Asked if it was legal to fire rubber bullets at asylum seekers, the commission also refused to comment.

"It is not up to the commission to offer any opinion or judgement on a situation which is exceptional, that is under certain constraints," said Margaritis Schinas, the vice-president in charge of "promoting our European way of life".

Eric Mamer, the commission's chief spokesperson, was even more blunt. "You won't get a straight yes or no answer from me," he said.

Instead, what you will get is a commission that has cowed to the far-right and one that is no longer fit to be the guardian of the EU treaties. That honour now belongs to EU citizens alone, it seems."

Briefing: A manufactured refugee crisis at the Greek-Turkish border (The New Humanitarian, link):

"Dramatic scenes have been playing out in recent days at the land and sea borders between Greece and Turkey: Greek police tear-gassing and pushing back crowds of asylum seekers at a northern border crossing; the Hellenic Coast Guard firing warning shots at a dinghy full of asylum seekers in the Aegean Sea; angry protesters preventing another group in a dinghy from disembarking in the port on the island of Lesvos.

The images have been exploited by a savvy Turkish media campaign aimed at maximising pressure on the EU to support Turkish action in northwest Syria and to share more of the burden for hosting refugees. According to refugee advocates and human rights groups, Turkey’s politicisation of the refugee issue and the suffering at the EU’s borders are a predictable outcome of the EU-Turkey deal – a cornerstone of EU efforts to curb irregular migration across its borders."

UNHCR statement on the situation at the Turkey-EU border (UNHCR, link):

"UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is appealing for calm and an easing of tensions on Turkey’s borders with the European Union in light of the present increased movements of people there – including refugees and asylum-seekers.

UNHCR is monitoring developments in Turkey and in Greece and is offering its support. As in all such situations it is important that the authorities refrain from any measures that might increase the suffering of vulnerable people.

All States have a right to control their borders and manage irregular movements, but at the same time should refrain from the use of excessive or disproportionate force and maintain systems for handling asylum requests in an orderly manner.

Neither the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees nor EU refugee law provides any legal basis for the suspension of the reception of asylum applications."

Greece/EU: Urgently Relocate Lone Children (Human Rights Watch, link):

"(Athens) – European Union (EU) Member States should urgently relocate unaccompanied children from the Greek islands to safety in their territory, while ensuring that the children’s best interests are taken into account, 64 human rights and humanitarian organizations said in a statement today. The groups warned of widespread violations of children’s rights and threats to their health and safety across the Aegean islands’ refugee hotspots. Action is all the more urgent in light of the escalating violence on Lesbos and as increased arrivals to the islands could lead to further deterioration of the dangerous conditions in the camps."

Greece: Inhumane asylum measures will put lives at risk (Amnesty International, link):

"The inhumane measures which the Greek authorities are taking to prevent people from entering the country are an appalling betrayal of Greece’s human rights responsibilities and will put the lives of people fleeing violence at risk, Amnesty International said today.

Yesterday, following a meeting of Greece’s National Security Council, the authorities announced they would temporarily suspend the registration of asylum claims from people who enter the country irregularly. This measure will be coupled with the immediate return without registration of new arrivals if the return to their country of origin is “possible.” It’s not clear how the Greek authorities are interpreting “possible” in this context."

At the Greek-Turkish border, politicians play with people’s lives (Alarm Phone, link):

"People trying to enter Europe in search of protection face brutal repression in the Aegean region. Although this is not new, we currently see an escalation of violence as Turkey and Greece play a dangerous game with people’s lives. The survival instinct and hope of many for a better future is exploited and manipulated for cynical political stunts. Greece has now declared a state of emergency and to remove people’s right to claim asylum."

EU governments ‘harassing’ those who help migrants: report (Politico, link):

"European countries are misusing immigration and counterterrorism laws to punish civil society organizations and private citizens who are trying to help asylum seekers, Amnesty International said in a report published Tuesday.

Those who have helped migrants by handing out warm clothes, offering shelter and saving lives at sea have been subjected to "unfounded criminal proceedings, undue restrictions of their activities, intimidation, harassment and smear campaigns" in multiple EU countries, Amnesty said.

...Amnesty recorded cases of restriction and criminalization of assistance to migrants in Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain, Switzerland and the U.K. These included incidents in which governments seized boats used by NGOs to rescue migrants at sea, and brought spying and terrorism-related charges against people suspected of helping migrants, such as the case of a Frenchman who faced trial for “facilitating irregular entry” into France after giving asylum seekers tea and clothing."

The report: Punishing compassion: Solidarity on trial in Fortress Europe (pdf)


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

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