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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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March 2019

UK: Home Affairs Committee Report: “Utter failure” of Home Office has led to serious problems with every part of the immigration detention system, Committee warns (pdf):

"The Home Office has shown a shockingly cavalier attitude in its approach to immigration detention and overseen serious failings in almost every area of the immigration detention process, a new report by the Home Affairs Committee has found."

Spain's migration agreements with Morocco have grave consequences for Mediterranean shipwrecks, warn trade union and human rights group

Andalusia, 16 March 2019 - The General Work Confederation (Confederación General del Trabajo, CGT) and the Andalusian Association for Human Rights (Asociación Pro-derechos Humanos de Andalucía, APDHA) have said in a press conference that the consequences of the recent agreements between Spain and Morocco on migration will have serious consequences for the human beings risking their lives in the Mediterranean.

3 years on, what’s become of the EU-Turkey migration deal? (Washington Post, link):

"ATHENS, Greece — In March 2016, European governments breathed a sigh of relief as the European Union reached a deal with Turkey designed to stop hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants heading into the heart of Europe. For many of those who had fled war, hunger and poverty hoping for a bright future on the continent, the deal shattered their dreams.

Three years on, here is a look back at the agreement and the effect it’s had on migration."

The “Mare Jonio” rescued 49 people from a shipwreck: now Italy must indicate a safe haven! (Mediterranea, link):

"The “Mare Jonio,” a ship flying an Italian flag and run by “Mediterranea Saving Humans,” has rescued 49 people on a rubber boat in distress while engaged in a monitoring mission in the Central Mediterranean, 42 miles off the Libyan coast. The warning, alerting to a boat adrift in international waters, came from the spotter plane “Moonbird,” run by the NGO “Sea Watch.”"

In troubled waters: What does the the future hold for Operation Sophia? (Jacques Delors Institute, link):

"In a row over the disembarkation of migrants rescued at sea, the Italian government has brought the EU’s maritime military Operation Sophia to the verge of collapse. As its current mandate expires on 31 December 2018, Lucas Rasche explores what the trouble about Operation Sophia is really about. In this policy brief he argues that a lack of responsibility sharing among EU member states has been responsible for the stalemate in negotiations over a new mandate and outlines three options for the future of Operation Sophia."

Greece: Three years of "cruel, inhumane and cynical" treatment of migrants and refugees (Doctors Wiithout Borders, link):

"Thousands of people remain trapped in overcrowded, unsafe and unsanitary Greek island camps three years after the implementation of the European Union-Turkey deal, said Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today, calling on European leaders to immediately evacuate children and other vulnerable people from these locations.

The European Union (EU) and Turkey deal, signed three years ago today, is a set of policies aimed at preventing refugees, migrants, and asylum-seekers from crossing irregularly from Turkey to Greece. These policies now trap about 12,000 men, women, and children in unsafe and degrading conditions in five Greek island camps, where they have little access to basic health services and suffer widespread misery."

The woman in you…is the woman in me (Detained Voices, link)

"What I see in Yarl’swood
Is greatly misunderstood
You say you care – oh oh oh
You are right you do but you don’t really know
How grave an injustice to perceive
Cos the woman in you…is the woman in me" (,,,)

EU asylum applications fall to pre-2015 levels (DW, link)

"The number of first-time asylum applications in the European Union has fallen to 580,845, Eurostat has reported. At the height of the migrant movements into Europe in 2015, asylum applications exceeded 1.2 million."

Italian charity ship defies Rome to rescue 50 off Libyan coast (Guardian, link)

"Rescue could spark showdown with government after order not to bring migrants to Italy. An Italian charity ship has rescued about 50 people from a rubber boat off the coast of Libya, prompting Rome to warn it is ready to stop private vessels “once and for all” from bringing rescued migrants to Italy."

And see: NGOs saving lives in the Mediterranean: MEPs take stock of the situation (European Parliament, link): "Members of Sea Watch, Solidarity at Sea, Sea Eye, Seebrücke Germany, Open Arms, Médecins sans Frontières and Migrant Offshore Aid Station objected to MEPs that their activities are being unjustly criminalised. They regret that the media and authorities are focussing their attention now on NGOs carrying out these rescue operations, and not on the humanitarian crisis taking place in the Mediterranean."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (13-18.3.19) including:

- Italy delivers 50 off-road vehicles to fight irregular migration in Tunisia
- 45 migrants drowned between Morocco and Spain
- Human rights organisation propose "fair and predictable rescue system" for the EU


Italy delivers 50 off-road vehicles to fight irregular migration in Tunisia (InfoMigrants, link):

"The Italian government said it has delivered 50 off-road vehicles to the Tunisian National Guard, which it donated for use in operations to fight irregular migration in the North African country.

In a ceremony on March 13, the Italian Embassy in Tunis confirmed the donation of 50 4x4 off-road vehicles by the Italian Interior Ministry to the Tunisian National Guard for use in the fight against irregular migration. The embassy said the donation of the 50 off-road vehicles was "made possible thanks to financing from the foreign ministry's Africa Fund, and is part of a framework of fruitful operational and security collaboration between the governments of Italy and Tunisia.""

See also: EU: Council Presidency: "progress" in migration cooperation with Libya should be repeated across North Africa

Moroccan Navy Rescues 21 Migrants, 45 Die at Sea (Morroco World News, link):

"Rabat – The Royal Moroccan Navy has rescued 21 migrants, including 13 women, who were trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Spain. However, 45 migrants, all sub-Saharan Africans, died at sea.

The Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders) collective, which alerts naval authorities about migrant boats in distress at sea between Morocco and Spain told the Associated Press on Thursday that there were pregnant women among the migrants who drowned.

“There was also one young girl, between 12 and 14 years old, who didn’t survive,” said Helena Maleno, the Tangier-based NGO’s spokesperson."

Are You Syrious (15.3.19, link):

Amnesty and HRW Propose Sea Rescue Action Plan to EU

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have sent an action plan to the European Council detailing 20 steps that offer a fair and predictable rescue system in the Mediterranean in order to put an end to deaths at sea and in detention.

The action plan is separated into four distinct actions which are summarized below."

ECHR: Three judgments: detention of and lack of care for unaccompanied minors in Greece and France violated rights; UK terrorism powers lacked safeguards

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) recently handed down three important judgements concerning the unacceptable detention of unaccompanied foreign minors in Greek police stations; the failure of the authorities to provide care for an unaccompanied foreign minor living in a camp in Calais; and a lack of safeguards in UK legislation that gave "immigration officers the power to stop, search and question passengers at ports, airports and international rail terminals."

UK: London: activists take action against former Italian Minister of Interior (Freedom News, link):

"On the 12th March 2019 students, activists and academics have taken action against the visit of the former Italian Minister of Interior, Marco Minniti, the architect of Italy’s policy to externalisation of the EU border to Libya and the sealing of the Mediterranean route.

During a scheduled talk at the London School of Economics (LSE) on “the situation of the Mediterranean Sea, migration and security” Marco Minniti largely praised himself for his diplomatic ‘achievements’ during his mandate, without mentioning the tragic and inhuman conditions faced by migrants and refugees trapped there. Students, activists and academics eventually challenged him on this point, by asking if the human rights of migrants were ever taken into account when it came to sign the Memorandum of Understanding with Libya, in February 2017."

EU: Saving lives in the Mediterranean: human rights organisations propose plan for "a fair and predictable rescue system"

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have sent an action plan for "a fair and predictable rescue system in the Mediterranean Sea" to Carmen Daniela Dan, the internal affairs minister of Romania, which currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU.

Western Mediterranean: Nearly Half of Recent Spain Migrant Arrivals Report Exploitation, Abuse (IOM, link):

"Madrid – According to an International Organization for Migration (IOM) flow monitoring survey of over 1,300 migrants and refugees in Spain last year, nearly half (48%) of those interviewed indicated having at least one direct experience related to human trafficking, exploitation or abuse while traveling on the Western Mediterranean Route. Men – who outnumber women nine to one among those surveyed – reported a higher percentage (49%) of incidents than women (40%).

The survey findings are based on 1,341 interviews with migrants and refugees from 39 countries of origin who arrived in Spain in 2018. The surveys were conducted between July and October 2018 in transit and reception centres in more than 40 Spanish municipalities across four autonomous regions to shed more light on the profile and experiences of those who arrived in the country by sea and by land via the Western Mediterranean route."

 


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (5-12.3.19) including:

- Council Presidency: "progress" in migration cooperation with Libya should be repeated across North Africa
- Criminal investigation against Spanish human rights activist Helena Maleno closed
- Bulldozers demolish migrant camp in Italy


EU: Council Presidency: "progress" in migration cooperation with Libya should be repeated across North Africa

The Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU has called for increased cooperation with North African countries on migration control, arguing that the "progress achieved in Libya" means "the EU should provide - on a much larger scale and over a longer period - targeted assistance" to other countries in the region.

EU: Commission's latest report on the Agenda on Migration praises "progress" and calls for further work

Last week the European Commission published its latest report on the European Agenda on Migration, praising work that has "brought irregular arrivals to Europe down to the lowest level recorded in 5 years." At the same time, it highlights the need for further work as part of the EU's "comprehensive approach", putting particular emphasis on cooperation with Morocco.

SPAIN-MOROCCO: Criminal investigation against Spanish human rights activist Helena Maleno closed

The Moroccan criminal investigation into alleged human trafficking by Spanish human rights activist Helena Maleno has been closed. The Tangiers Court of Appeal last week confirmed that there is no evidence of criminal activity by Maleno, against whom the Moroccan authorities opened an investigation in December 2017. She was accused of trafficking in persons due to her alarm calls to the Spanish authorities concerning vessels in distress on the journey between Spain and Morocco.

AI: Europe’s shameful failure to end the torture and abuse of refugees and migrants in Libya (link):

"Catastrophic impact of Europe’s migration policies

Most of the people currently held in Libya’s detention centres were intercepted at sea by the Libyan coastguard, which has enjoyed all kind of support from European governments in exchange for preventing refugees and migrants from reaching European shores.

Through the donation of ships, the setting up of a Libyan search and rescue zone, and the construction of coordination centres, among other measures, European taxpayers’ money has been used to enhance the Libyan capacity to block people attempting to flee Libya and hold them in unlawful detention. And this was done with no conditions attached, even if such cooperation results in gross human rights violations like torture."

No agreement on asylum possible before EU elections, EU member states admit (euractiv, link):

"EU interior ministers on Thursday (7 March) failed to conclude an overhaul of the bloc’s migration policy, meaning that under the Juncker Commission, no further progress can be expected on a dossier expected to take centre stage at the European elections.

After the proposal of a package of laws to overhaul the European asylum system, five of the seven laws have been agreed.

However, EU member states have been deadlocked for more than a year on the most important one: the planned harmonisation of the bloc’s asylum procedures and the controversial question of relocation quotas for refugees across the bloc."

EU declares migration crisis over as it hits out at 'fake news' - European commission combats ‘untruths’ over issue after row with Hungary’s Viktor Orbán (Guardian, link):

"The European commission has declared the migration crisis over, as it sharpened its attack on “fake news” and “misinformation” about the issue.

Frans Timmermans, the European commission’s first vice-president, said: “Europe is no longer experiencing the migration crisis we lived in 2015, but structural problems remain.”"

Greece: Three dead in migrant boat sinking off Samos (ekathimerini.com, link):

"One man and two children died on Thursday after a boat they were on sank off the east coast of the Greek island of Samos, in the eastern Aegean, state-run news agency ANA-MPA reported."

Bulldozers demolish migrant camp in Italy (euobserver, link):

"Bulldozers and paramilitary police demolished a migrant camp near Gioia Tauro, in Calabria, in southern Italy, on Wednesday, putting at risk of homelessness the mostly African people who lived there and who worked on local farms for low wages, local charities warned."

Border controls in Bavaria and Austria: Police to extract mobile phones (Matthias Monroy, link):

"With the takeover of the sovereign border security, the Free State is also using new technology. The extraction of telephones is supposed to help in the detection of „smuggler networks“. Another application is „contactless identity verification“. The projects are perfecting the expansion of biometric EU databases."

No choice: Migrants kidnapped for ransom (Info Migrants, link):

"'Travel now, pay later' schemes offered by smugglers seem to be increasing the risks to migrants and refugees, especially in parts of Africa. One of the dangers is being kidnapped for ransom, a business that thrives in lawless regions and traps migrants with no way out."

EU-MED: Sophia in limbo: political games limit sea rescues (euobserver, link):

"There are only few weeks left until the mandate of the EU's naval mission in the Mediterranean, EUNAVFOR Med [Operation Sophia], will expire on 31 March (...)

And, indeed, the mission which has rescued about 49,000 people so far has picked up only 106 refugees since July 2018."

Rethinking refugee support: Responding to the crisis in South Eastern Europe (pressenza.com, llink):

"The migration crisis that began in 2015 has had a major impact on countries in South Eastern Europe.

Outlining findings and recommendations from a new project, Amanda Russell Beattie, Gemma Bird, Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik and Patrycja Rozbicka explain that the EU’s response to the crisis has resulted in the outsourcing of refugee settlement and care to states such as Serbia, Greece and Bosnia which were previously described as ‘transit’ countries. This is leading to overcrowding in refugee camps and reception centres, as well as difficulty in ensuring adequate standards of care and accommodation."

UK: Celebrities call for change to ‘unjust’ rules on asylum seekers working in UK (Daily Echo, link):

" A group of actors, authors, lawyers and film-makers have called on the Government to lift a ban on people seeking asylum in the UK taking on paid work.

The joint letter, signed by 39 people including actor Jude Law, sculptor Antony Gormley, film-maker Ken Loach and former archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, said the issue is “urgent, so plainly unjust and so easy to reconcile that we have been compelled to speak out”.

Under current Government rules, asylum seekers are not normally permitted to work while they are waiting for their application to be processed."

Greece: Moria 8 declared innocent (aegean.bordermonitoring.eu, link):

"After 11 months of unjust detention, the Moria 8 have finally been declared innocent and will be released. On the 22nd of February 2019, they were brought to the High Court in Chios where it took the three judges and the four person jury only an hour and a half to acquit them of all charges."

After crackdown, what do people employed in migration market do? (Aljazzera, link)

"Thousands in Niger were employed as middlemen until the government, aided by the EU, targeted undocumented migration."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (26.2-4.3.19) including:

- Officials knew EU military mission made migration more dangerous
- Global Approach to Migration and Mobility (GAMM) update report
- Common European Asylum System legislation - still going nowhere fast


ITALY: The measure of a minister: Salvini paints a racist death threat as a demand for security

A racist death threat directed at a young Senegalese man has been described by the Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini as a request for "security and legality."

New Danish assessment makes future uncertain for Syrian asylum seekers (The Local, link):

"An assessment by the Immigration Service (Udlændingestyrelsen) of the security situation in Syria’s Damascus province could affect refugees from that region who seek asylum in Denmark, and those already granted it.

For the first time since 2013, the Danish immigration agency does not consider the situation across all of Syria to automatically qualify refugees from the Middle Eastern country for temporary asylum status.

Specifically, this could affect the cases of persons from the Damascus province, the Ministry of Immigration and Integration stated in a press statement Thursday evening."

Drone Surveillance Operations in the Mediterranean: The Central Role of the Portuguese Economy and State in EU Border Control (Border Criminologies, link):

"While the Portuguese government does not currently have a single helicopter operating in order to control and fight forest fires that have caused more than 100 deaths in the past two years, much EU and national public funding goes into technology aimed at the control of racialized bodies and the observation of earth from space. At the same time, there is considerable concern among experts that surveillance technology used for military means and border security will be rolled out over the entire population in the future for general policing purposes. For this reason, it remains important to keep an eye on which technologies are receiving large public funds and what are its possible uses."

EU: Global Approach to Migration and Mobility (GAMM) update report

The Commission Services together with the EEAS (European External Action Service) have produced the latest: GAMM update (LIMITE doc no: 6363-19, 43 pages, pdf):

"GAMM UPDATE: 11 February 2019

This document provides an updated overview of the main external migration dialogues and processes implemented in the framework of the EU Global Approach to Migration and Mobility (GAMM). The document is compiled for the information of the EU High Level Working Group on Asylum and Migration by the responsible European Commission services, in association with the EEAS."

European Parliament briefing: Reform of the Dublin system (pdf):

"An agreement on the balance between responsibility and solidarity regarding the distribution of asylum-seekers will be a cornerstone for the new EU asylum policy. Although Parliament’s LIBE committee adopted its positon in autumn 2017, the Council has been unable to reach a position on the proposal."

February 2019

Europe’s deadly migration strategy - Officials knew EU military operation made Mediterranean crossing more dangerous (Politico, link):

"But a collection of leaked documents from the European External Action Service, the bloc’s foreign policy arm, obtained by POLITICO, paint a different picture.

In internal memos, the operation’s leaders admit Sophia’s success has been limited by its own mandate — it can only operate in international waters, not in Libyan waters or on land, where smuggling networks operate — and it is underfunded, understaffed and underequipped.(...)

The confidential reports also show the EU is aware that a number of its policies have made the sea crossing more dangerous for migrants, and that it nonetheless chose to continue to pursue those strategies. Officials acknowledge internally that some members of the Libyan coast guard that the EU funds, equips and trains are collaborating with smuggling networks.

For the operation’s critics, the EU’s willingness to turn a blind eye to these shortcomings — as well as serious human rights abuses by the Libyan coast guard and in the country’s migrant detention centers — are symptomatic of what critics call the bloc’s incoherent approach to managing migration and its desire to outsource the problem to non-EU countries."

ECHR: Unaccompanied migrant minors in detention (Factsheet, pdf): List of cases:

"“[I]t is important to bear in mind that [the child’s extreme vulnerability] is the decisive factor and ... takes precedence over considerations relating to the ... status [of] illegal immigrant.”

EU: Common European Asylum System legislation - still going nowhere fast

The Council's latest "progress report" on the seven pieces of legislation underpinning the Common European Asylum System has very little progress to report.

Nothing has changed on the Greek Islands (AYS Daily Digest 25/02/2019, link):

"Despite continuous claims by the Greek Government and EU authorities, and while still remembering embarrassing statements of the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras being proud of the living conditions of refugees on the islands, nothing there seems to change…

According to National Statistics 15,493 people are still on the facilities on the islands: 7252 on Lesvos, 1741 on Chios, 4294 on Samos, 1173 on Leros, 995 on Kos and 72 on other islands.

We learned to mistrust such statistics, especially while — on February 25th — they still state that no one is living in makeshift camps."


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

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