Home | News Online | What's New | Publications | Analyses | Observatories | Database | SEMDOC | Journal | Support our work

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"

May 2016

Greek authorities begin evacuation of Idomeni refugee camp (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Greek authorities began an operation at dawn Tuesday to gradually evacuate the country’s largest informal refugee camp of Idomeni on the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), blocking access to the area and sending in more than 400 riot police....

Journalists were barred from the camp during the evacuation operation, stopped at a police roadblock a few kilometers (miles) away. Twenty buses carrying various riot police units were seen heading to the area while a police helicopter observed from above. An estimated 700 police were participating in the operation."
[emphasis added]

and see: Idomeni: Greek riot police move in to clear refugee camp (Guardian, link): "No violence reported as Greek authorities order 8,000 residents of Europe’s largest informal refugee camp to leave."

European Parliament: MEPs assess refugee camps in Greece and call for smoother implementation of EU-Turkey deal (Press release, pdf):

"A delegation from the civil liberties committee visited Greece last week to assess refugees' situation at the EU's external borders and the implementation of the EUTurkey deal to manage the influx of migrants and refugees. The delegation was led by Hungarian S&D member Péter Niedermüller. Members also met with representatives from the Greek authorities, international organisations and nongovernmental organisations.

According to Frontex, 1.83 million illegal crossings were detected at the EU's external borders last year. Southern European countries were responsible for dealing with most of these migrants, but the sharp increase has proved challenging. The delegation aimed to see how Greece was coping."

Statewatch comment: Unfortunately the Press release cites Frontex (in January) stating: "In all of 2015, there were 1.83 million illegal border crossings detected at EU’s external borders." By its own admission Frontex figures are inflated by the double-counting of refugees. UNHCR states: "UNHCR’s latest figures show that some 1,000,573 people had reached Europe across the Mediterranean, mainly to Greece and Italy, in 2015."

Italy helps rescue 2,600 migrants from sea in 24 hours (Reuters, link):

"Italian vessels have helped rescue more than 2,600 migrants from boats trying to reach Europe from North Africa in the last 24 hours, the coastguard said on Monday, indicating that numbers are rising as the weather warms up.

Some 2,000 migrants were rescued off the Libyan coast from 14 rubber dinghies and one larger boat in salvage operations by the Italian navy and coastguard, the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres and an Irish navy vessel, the coastguard said.... Officials fear the numbers trying to make the crossing to southern Italy
will increase as conditions improve in warmer weather...

More than 31,000 migrants have reached Italy by boat so far this year, slightly fewer than in the same period of 2015."

EU navies to help Libya coastguard stop migrants (euobserver, link): "EU navies are to start training the Libyan coastguard amid concern that the summer could see huge numbers of migrants try to cross the Mediterranean. Foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday (23 May) agreed the new task for Sophia, the EU's anti migrant-smuggling naval operation."

See: External aspects of migration - Council Conclusions (23 May 2016) (pdf)

"Regarding the Central Mediterranean route, the Council highlights the need to use the broad range of tools available to manage flows in cooperation with third countries of origin and transit as part of an EU regional approach to migration, including via CSDP instruments. In particular, it highlights the importance of the work to be undertaken at the request of and in partnership with the Libyan Government of National Accord on a comprehensive approach to manage migration, which includes the fight against smugglers and traffickers, as well as capacity building and training of Libyan coastguard and Navy as one of the two further supporting tasks to be implemented by EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia. Work will be carried forward to this end to amend the mandate of EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia as well as the possible setting up of an increased civilian CSDP presence in Libya, including on border management assistance, in addition to existing EU funded capacity building projects."

Divert 10% of EU funds to deal with refugee crisis, says Germany (Guardian, link):

"Development minister Gerd Müller also says EU’s mechanisms for responding to refugee crisis are not fit for purpose.... Müller’s proposal follows a year in which Europe’s leaders responded to a wave of migration at its borders with a fragmented series of strategies and promises, many of which they failed to uphold, or were slow to enact.

In April last year, leaders said they would crackdown on Libyan smugglers, but the mission took until September to get underway, and has largely been a failure.In September, EU members pledged to relocate 120,000 refugees from Greece and Italy, the frontline states where most new asylum-seekers enter Europe. But despite renewing these vows in March, less than 1% of the refugees concerned have been moved. Similarly low numbers have been resettled directly from the Middle East.

In January, European and western leaders promised to send billions of pounds to countries in the Middle East where refugees form substantial proportions of the population – but so far only a sixth of the money has been paid... Alluding to some of these problems, Müller said: “We can’t just go from one summit to the next, making statements that we don’t fulfil.”".

World humanitarian summit starts amid hope, hype and fear of empty words (euractiv, link):

"Hundreds of world leaders and politicians will descend on Istanbul on Monday in a nominal attempt to reform the global humanitarian system, despite criticism that their summit is a photo opportunity that will achieve little....

Speaking to the Guardian, MSF’s UK director, Vickie Hawkins, said it was unlikely that the same countries who are currently shirking their obligations to refugees would turn over a new leaf next week. “The contradiction became too much for us,” said Hawkins. “We didn’t have any confidence that anything different will come out of the conference. There’s a lot of good intentions, but also empty rhetoric. And we felt we needed more than that, given the current disregard for international law.”

Germany sees rise in right-wing violence (DW, link): "The German government says political violence reached a new high in 2015 as the country saw a massive influx of migrants. German ministers have previously promised to crack down on hate crimes."

UNHCR: Daily Report (23.5.16):

"According to the [Greek] Ministry of Citizen’s Protection press release, 1,048 foreigners of various nationalities were returned to Turkey on the basis of the Bilateral Readmission Protocol between Greece and Turkey, 34 Turkish nationals were returned to Turkey under the EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement, and 441 foreigners of various nationalities were returned to Turkey on the basis of the EU-Turkey Joint Statement of 18 March."

"In Austria, during the month of April, 4,152 people lodged asylum claims. This brings applications up to 18,597 in 2016 (to the end of April). In total this constitutes an increase of 29.18% compared to the same period in 2015. Afghan nationals ranked first with 5,234 applications, followed by Syrian nationals (3,926), people from Iran (1,520), and Iraq (1,489)."

News (24.5.16)

Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals in 2016: 191,134; Deaths 1,370 (IOM link)

Merkel warns Erdogan his authoritarian drift endangers visa deal (euractiv, link): "German Chancellor Angela Merkel told President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday (23 May) of her “deep concern” over the state of democracy in Turkey and voiced doubt that a plan to offer Turks visa-free travel to the EU would be implemented on time."

Migration crisis: Italians protest over Austria border fence plan (Guardian, link): "Clashes with police at Brenner Pass coincide with far-right march in Germany calling on Merkel to resign"

Martin Schulz: Turkey on the way to becoming a ‘one-man state’ (Politico, link): "No visa liberalization for Turks in Europe until Erdogan meets all conditions, the European Parliament president insists."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (23.5.16)
EU: External aspects of migration - Council conclusions (23 May 2016) (9111/16, pdf)

"The Council stresses the need to further strengthen the work on the external dimension of migration policy and reaffirms its commitment to a comprehensive and geographically balanced approach on migration on the basis of the European Agenda on Migration, European Council conclusions and Council conclusions of 12 October 2015 and 12 May 2016 in full respect of international law and human rights. The Council recalls the steps taken by the EU and its Member States in integrating migration as a permanent and structural component of EU foreign policy. While implementation of agreed actions should form the core of the EU approach, the Council welcomes Member States' calls and initiatives for further, collective strengthened EU action towards third countries."

The conclusions say that the EU will continue with various efforts at stemming migration to Europe, for example through High-Level Dialogues and the Valletta Action Plan, and the Council is to "continue to look into the proposal by Hungary on "Schengen 2.0"."

There is also affirmation "of the importance of the security-development nexus"; the "need for full and effective implementation of existing readmission agreements," as well as the completion of negotiations on new agreements; and "the need for cooperation on migration with all third countries, such as Iraq, that are key in managing the current irregular migration flows".

Increased involvement in Libya is also noted:

"Work will be carried forward to this end to amend the mandate of EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia as well as the possible setting up of an increased civilian CSDP presence in Libya, including on border management assistance, in addition to existing EU funded capacity building projects."


"The management of mixed migratory flows is not only a European, but a global responsibility, which calls for collective commitments and solutions. It requires countries of origin, transit and destination to forge genuine partnerships, on the basis of enhanced mutual support and solidarity, and an equitable and balanced responsibility-sharing within the international community. The EU will continue to advocate strongly for the respect of international law, including international humanitarian law, refugee law, notably the principle of non-refoulement, and international human rights law."

EU: Commission statistics on hotspots, relocation, financial pledges, civil protection and returns: updated 23 May with figures published 20 May. See: Refugee crisis: Statistics: September 2015-ongoing

GREECE: Camp at Idomeni to be evacuated

Refugee Crisis: Evacuation of Idomeni Begins Tomorrow (The Press Project, link): "Mr.Kiritsis estimated that the entire camp will have been evacuated within the next 10 days. He clarified that this is not a brutal police evacuation but, rather, a smooth operation aiming to help the refugees relocate in a civilized non violent manner. "This is not a primarily police, or police centred, operation" were the words of Kiristis.

It has been reported that squads of riot police have been assembling close to the camp but the authorities assure that their work will only be to aid and facilitate.

The representative stated that the refugees will be mostly relocated to Thessaloniki where 6 ex-industrial spaces have been altered in order to host 6500-7000 people."

And: Police poised to evacuate Idomeni refugee camp (Ekathemerini, link): "It appears that Greek authorities are poised to put into action a plan to evacuate the refugee camp in Idomeni, on the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

According to sources, nine squads of riot police received orders on Monday to travel from Athens to Kilkis so they can take part in the operation if their contribution is needed. Authorities will attempt to move the refugees from the unofficial camp to other sites that have been made ready in various parts of northern Greece."

Migreurop press release: close the camps

"On 18 June 2010, the Migreurop network decided to make a stand against the detention of foreigners.

Launched in 2011, the ‘Open Access Now’ campaign aimed to publicise the unseen realities of immigration detention, its excesses and the rights violations that flow from it. The campaign demanded total transparency and unconditional access to information and to locations where people are deprived of their liberty, for journalists and for civil society.


In the face of the increase in immigration detention, following the ‘Open Access Now’ campaign, in the years ahead Migreurop will give priority to campaigning for the closure of all the detention camps for foreigners in Europe and beyond, under the slogan ‘Close the Camps’.

The ‘Close the Camps’ mobilisation will aim to better expose detention centres including their new forms, to familiarise the public with them, in order to demand different policies."

See: After the 'Open Access Now' campaign: mobilisation (pdf)

EU: Migration and border security top INTERPOL European meeting agenda (INTERPOL press release, link): "Addressing the border security challenges posed by an unprecedented number of migrants travelling to Europe is a key issue for senior law enforcement officials gathered at the 44th INTERPOL European Regional Conference.

Following the publication of the joint Europol-INTERPOL Report on Migrant Smuggling Networks earlier this week, delegates at the conference will hear from countries including Austria, Germany, Slovenia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as well as from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on their experiences in tackling this phenomenon.

With the report highlighting that border controls influence key routes for migrant smuggling, ensuring frontline officers have access to INTERPOL’s capabilities in order to access vital policing information, particularly within the Schengen area, is an essential part of enhancing national, regional and global security."

See: MIGRANT SMUGGLING NETWORKS Joint Europol-INTERPOL Report (pdf) and speeches from the conference: Opening address by Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL Secretary General (pdf) and Closing speech by Mr Alexander PROKOPCHUK, INTERPOL Executive Committee Delegate for Europe (pdf)

Questionable Deal: EU to Work with African Despot to Keep Refugees Out (Der Spiegel, link): "The ambassadors of the 28 European Union member states had agreed to secrecy. "Under no circumstances" should the public learn what was said at the talks that took place on March 23rd, the European Commission warned during the meeting of the Permanent Representatives Committee. A staff member of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini even warned that Europe's reputation could be at stake.

Under the heading "TOP 37: Country fiches," the leading diplomats that day discussed a plan that the EU member states had agreed to: They would work together with dictatorships around the Horn of Africa in order to stop the refugee flows to Europe -- under Germany's leadership.

When it comes to taking action to counter the root causes of flight in the region, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said, "I strongly believe that we must improve peoples' living conditions." The EU's new action plan for the Horn of Africa provides the first concrete outlines: For three years, ?40 million ($45 million) is to be paid out to eight African countries from the Emergency Trust Fund, including Sudan.

Minutes from the March 23 meetings and additional classified documents obtained by SPIEGEL and the German public television station ARD show "Report Mainz" show that the focus of the project is border protection. To that end, equipment is to be provided to the countries in question."

And see: Europe’s secret deal with Africa’s dictators (New Statesman, link): "Detailed plans, copies of which have been seen by the New Statesman, lay out a programme of co-operation with some of Africa’s most notorious regimes. The aim is to curtail the exodus of African refugees, whose arrival in Europe has become such a toxic political question."

Background: EU-AFRICA: EU refugee crisis: Valletta Conference 11-12 November 2015 Update: Final texts and full documentation (Statewatch News Online, November 2015) and The 'Khartoum Process': beefing up borders in east Africa (October 2015)

GERMANY-MAGHREB: Condemnation and denunciation statement: Stop the attack on human dignity (pdf) signed by Maghreb LGBTQ organisations Mawjoudin (Tunisia), Aswat (Morocco), Alouen (Algeria) and Quzah (Libya): "In the context of the International day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, and as Human Rights activists generally and LGBTQ (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender and Queer) rights activists specifically in the Region of North Africa, we address our speech to all Governments concerned and to International Organizations following the last decisions issued by the German Parliament concerning the “Safe Country” report regarding Asylum Seekers from the Greater MaghrebCountries (Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria) without consideration of International Covenants and what they stipulate as to guaranteeing the right to seek protection and Freedom of movement that are clearly enshrined in the Article 13 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights which includes the principle of freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State."

See: 'Safe countries': German MPs vote to block asylum applications from Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria (RT, link)

Dispatches: Dignity at Stake for Refugees with Disabilities in Greece (Human Rights Watch, link): "“Here it is very hard for me to go to the toilet. My husband helps me at the door and random women help me inside the toilet,” Nawael, a 34-year-old Syrian woman who uses a wheelchair after being paralyzed from an airstrike in Syria, told me. I met her, her three children, and husband last March at the informal refugee camp at the Athens port of Piraeus.

Nawael is among dozens of refugees with disabilities I’ve met in Greece over the past year. Like many other people with disabilities forced to flee, Nawael told me of their treacherous journey to Europe, and how her husband carried her most of the time. She spoke of the difficulties in Greece in accessing a proper place to sleep, the toilet, food, and medical assistance."

EU-TURKEY: The saga continues

Bulgaria asks EU for ‘plan B’ if Turkey abandons refugee deal (EurActiv, link): "Bulgaria asked the European Union to develop a backup plan, in the event that Turkey refuses to implement its agreement to deal with the refugee crisis, Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov said on Friday (20 May).

Mitov made the comment at the meeting of NATO foreign ministers last week, at which NATO-EU cooperation to deal with refugee crisis was discussed.

“We are pushing for plan B. It must take into account many factors. You need to be aware that the agreement itself has its delicate moments. We have insisted for such a plan and now we are discussing it,” said Mitov, according to Bulgarian newspaper Sega."

See also: Erdogan approves law on Turkey-EU readmission deal (Hurriyet Daily News, link): "Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has approved a law on an agreement between Ankara and Brussels on the readmission of people residing in the EU without authorization."

But: Erdogan adviser warns Turkey could suspend EU agreements (Reuters, link): "Turkey could suspend all of its agreements with the European Union, including a customs union, if the bloc continues its "double standards" in talks with Ankara, an adviser to President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday.

Speaking on state broadcaster TRT Haber, Yigit Bulut, who advises Erdogan on the economy, warned that if Europe failed to live up to its promises to Turkey, Ankara could review all of its relations with the 28-member bloc."

And: Bulgaria to build more fences to stop migrants: media report (EurActiv, link)

France, United Kingdom, Belgium and the Netherlands met at Eurojust and set up a task force on illegal immigrant smuggling in the North Sea region (Eurojust press release, link): "Judicial and law enforcement professionals from France, United Kingdom, Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as liaison magistrates and specialists from Europol, recently came together at Eurojust for an operational meeting on illegal immigrant smuggling in the North Sea region.

The meeting, which was chaired by the National Member for France, discussed emerging trends and new threats in the field of illegal immigrant smuggling and explored the possibilities of more efficient cooperation and information sharing in related cases.

During the meeting, the work of Eurojust’s Thematic group on Illegal immigrant smuggling (TG IIS) was presented, after which the authorities involved outlined the state of play in the fight against illegal immigrant smuggling in their respective countries. Specialists from Europol then presented the work of their team in disrupting migrant smuggling networks. The participants highlighted the complexity of the migrant smuggling phenomenon, in which national authorities are confronted with highly adaptable and mobile transnational criminal networks."

Joint press release of the Greek Asylum Service, UNHCR and European Asylum Support Office (EASO): The registration of asylum seekers residing in open reception facilities in the mainland will begin in the next few weeks (link): "The Asylum Service will conduct a pre-registration exercise for international protection in the mainland from end of May to end of July with the financial support of the European Commission (DG Home), The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) will support the Asylum Service in this exercise.

The pre-registration exercise will take several weeks to conclude, but all those who arrived in Greece before 20 March, wishing to apply for international protection in Greece and are currently residing on the mainland will be able to pre-register.

The pre-registration exercise is the first step to apply for international protection in Greece, which could eventually lead to (i) examination of the application for international protection by the Greek authorities, and potential recognition of beneficiary of international protection, or (ii) transfer to another EU Member State in the context of Dublin III provisions, or, (iii) transfer to another EU Member State in the context of the relocation scheme.

Before and during the pre-registration exercise, information will be provided on the available options to those concerned, through leaflets and information teams deployed to the open accommodation sites.

The International Organization for Migration will also participate in order to provide information on voluntary repatriation to the countries of origin to those interested.

Those wishing to be pre-registered must be physically present during this exercise, including any members of their family. A photo will be taken of each individual during this exercise. At the end of the pre-registration an asylum seeker card will be issued for each individual."

GREECE: Humanitarian space and border management in Lesbos (OpenDemocracy, link): "The latest EU-Turkey deal is the culmination of months of attempts by the European Commission to take control of the eastern Mediterranean, a space that has recently seen the arrival of over one million people as well as unprecedented displays of solidarity by people across Europe.


The unfolding drama on the Greek islands can be read in three acts: the rise of autonomous and solidaric organisation; the emergence of a securitised humanitarian border space; and, finally, the consolidation of a de facto securitised and punitive regime. Throughout all three of these acts, actors have negotiated and renegotiated the relationship between the solidarity, humanitarianism, and securitisation agendas."

News (23.5.16)

Migrant crisis: Child trafficking on rise in EU (BBC News, link): "The number of children trafficked to EU countries by gangs - often for prostitution - is rising and the UK is a major destination, new data show.

The European Commission says child trafficking is "one of the trends that is increasing most sharply".

In 2013-2014 there were 15,846 registered victims of trafficking in the EU, at least 15% of them children.

Three-quarters of the victims were women, and 67% were trafficked for sex. Many other victims were not detected.

According to the official Commission figures, the UK registered 1,358 victims in 2013-2014, and the Netherlands registered the most - 1,561."

GERMANY: Rightwing violence surges in Germany (The Guardian, link): "The number of violent crimes with a rightwing political motive rose more than 40% in Germany last year accompanying a large influx of migrants into the country, the government has said. The number of crimes committed by foreigners was also up more than 10%.

German authorities recorded 1,485 violent far-right crimes last year, up from 1,029 the previous year, according to annual crime statistics. As the number of homes for asylum seekers grew, so too did attacks on them, which more than quadrupled to 923. Acts of violence against those homes increased to 177 from 26 the previous year."

SPAIN: 100 organizaciones acusan al Ministro Fernández de promover actos inmorales contra los Derechos Humanos [100 organisations accuse the Fernansez Ministry of promoting immoral acts contrary to human rights] (Periodismo Humano, link): "According to the 115 signatory organisations, the awarding of medals to Guardia Civil officers, accused and absolved of beating and illegally deporting migrants and refugees, not only exceeds the powers of the caretaker government, but also means awarding and promoting illegal actions that gravely infringe human rights, about which the United Nations has recently shown its grave concern and which is also the theme of several cases pending before the European Court of Human Rights."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (21-22.5.16)
Syrian refugee wins appeal against forced return to Turkey (Guardian, link):

"Decision by Greek independent asylum service to overturn deportation order throws EU-Turkey migration deal into chaos

The EU-Turkey migration deal has been thrown further into chaos after an independent authority examining appeals claims in Greece ruled against sending a Syrian refugee back to Turkey, potentially creating a precedent for thousands of other similar cases.

In a landmark case, the appeals committee upheld the appeal of an asylum seeker who had been one of the first Syrians listed for deportation under the terms of the EU-Turkey deal.

In a document seen by the Guardian, a three-person appeals tribunal in Lesbos said Turkey would not give Syrian refugees the rights they were owed under international treaties and therefore overturned the applicant’s deportation order by a verdict of two to one. The case will now be re-assessed from scratch.

The committee’s conclusion stated: “The committee has judged that the temporary protection which could be offered by Turkey to the applicant, as a Syrian citizen, does not offer him rights equivalent to those required by the Geneva convention.".....

Greek media said it would be only a matter of time before the “bombshell” decision had the snowball effect of triggering an avalanche of similar asylum requests by other refugees, especially Syrians, detained on far-flung Aegean islands. Some 174 claims have been examined by appeals committees made up of asylum experts, lawyers and officials in Lesbos so far, with 100 being upheld, according to the Greek daily Kathimerini."

and see: Migrant deal at risk as Turkey deemed unsafe by Greek court (ekathimerini.com, link):

"The committee of judges on Lesvos refused to reject an asylum application by a Syrian refugee and send him back to Turkey, because it ruled it unsafe and said that the case should be examined further – meaning the implementation of the deal will face even further delays as it will take more time to process thousands of applications of stranded migrants.

The decision could form a precedent and deal a devastating blow to the agreement signed in late March, as it could put on hold the return of Syrian refugees to Turkey and, essentially, render the agreement toothless.

The asylum court on Lesvos has so far examined 174 applications by Syrians, of whom 100 have been granted asylum. The remaining applicants, who were rejected, have lodged appeals requesting the re-examination of their cases."

Meanwhile, people are still dying – Refugee and migrant communities call to all European citizens (Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, link):

"BHC is joining the Greek Forum of Refugees in its call for support, by sharing their open letter regarding the current situation of refugees in Greece. Refugee and migrant communities call to all European citizens.....

We, people from migrant and refugee backgrounds, workers, parents, students, soon-to-be or already European citizens, are joining our voices to all those ashamed of how Europe is treating refugees and migrants. What’s wrong?""

EU Budgetary Responses to the ‘Refugee Crisis’ Reconfiguring the Funding Landscape (CEPS, link):

"EU funding for cooperation with third countries to prevent the inflow of refugees and asylum seekers has monetise questions over the responsibility for these individuals. As the EU – Turkey agreement shows , this has created a self - imposed dependence on third countries, with the risk of potentially insatiable demands for EU funding."

How Europe is punishing migrants (Washington Post, link): "As hundreds of thousands of refugees have poured into Europe, some countries and regions have tried to pass legislation that specifically targets refugees and migrants. Here's a look at some of those policies that have been introduced in the last year.

MSF calls for immediate opening of hotspots (link):

"Two months after the signing of the deal by the European Union and Turkey, the situation continues to deteriorate for migrants incarcerated on the Greek islands. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reiterates the abject conditions of these incarcerations and calls for the immediate opening of hotspots.

Since 20 March, refugees landing on the islands are sent to lock-down centres. Among them are women and infants and dozens of unaccompanied minors for whom no specific protection measures have been instituted. "

UK: Refugee Council: England’s forgotten refugees: Out of the fire and into the frying pan (link):

"The research explores the experience of newly recognised refugees within their first year of being granted asylum by the UK Government. When an asylum seeker is granted refugee status, those who are receiving accommodation and subsistence payments from the Home Office are informed that it will cease in 28 days. This is known as the ‘grace’ or ‘move on’ period and it is expected that the newly recognised refugee will be able to secure housing and income in this timeframe."

Are You Syrious (21.5.16)

Translators, lawyers urgently needed on Chios

"Situation on the overcrowded island is still very bad due to mistreatment of the refugees and significant lack of relevant information about their legal possibilities. In order to tackle this, Kurdish, Farsi, Arabic and Dari translators are urgently needed, as well as migration law experts. Kurdish interpreters and legal experts should contact Gabrielle Tan of Action from Switzerland directly, while Farsi, Arabic and Dari translators are invited to contact Chios Eastern Shore Response Team. If you are willing to sponsor a skilled translator or legal volunteer, feel free to contact Gabrielle or CESRT as well."

ITALY: Only one Sicilian hotspot working properly, fears of mafia infiltration rising

"Delegation of the parliamentary committee for the refugees has visited the hotspot of Milo in the province of Trapani, Sicily, witnessing the boat landing of 435 refugees (143 of them minors) from the MSF ship Dignity. Trapani was singled out as a good example of NGO’s and authorities working together to ensure fast transfer of the new arrivals, as opposed to other two Sicilian hotspots Lampedusa and Pozzallo where refugees are detained for longer periods of time, waiting for their placement in reception centers.

Hotspots must remain centers of identification and not turn into detention centers. Otherwise we won’t be able to absorb the flow of migrants which is expected to increase in the coming months?—?said Federico Gelli of Democratic party after visiting Trapani today

The delegation also warned about the possibility of mafia infiltration in the hotspots, which could lead to further endangering refugees."

UNHCR: Daily Report (19.5.16)

"According to the Turkish Coast Guard, the number of people attempting to irregularly cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece has dropped significantly in April. 400 people were intercepted on the Aegean in the first half of May, compared to 800 in the first half of April, representing a 50% decrease. The number of interceptions in April had already fallen by 80% in comparison to those of March.

Of the 24,500 refugees intercepted so far this year, 5,506 took place in January, 8,747 in February, 8,530 in March, and 1,717 in April. Also according to Turkish Coast Guard figures, no casualties occurred in Turkish waters this April."

and see UNHCR: detention centres in Greece: Capacity and actual number of refugees (pdf)

35 refugees arrived in Lesvos on 20 May.

Hungary: Where have all the deported asylum seekers gone? (Budapest Beacon, link):

"Between 15 September 2015 and 11 May 2016, Hungarian immigration authorities ordered the expulsion of 2,639 individuals from Hungary. These individuals were put through the expedited expulsion process as a result of the new crime of engaging in restricted border crossing. This is the process that has been criticized by many international human rights organizations, foreign governments and the UN Refugee Agency as a violation of international agreements....

The big question here is what happened to individuals who were expelled on paper but were not taken back by Serbia."

Ai Weiwei says EU's refugee deal with Turkey is immoral - Unveiling work documenting his time on Lesbos, Chinese artist describes getting caught up in ‘shameful humanitarian crisis’ (Guardian, link)

"The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei described the EU’s refugee deal with Turkey as shameful and immoral as he unveiled the artistic results of his stay on the Greek island of Lesbos....

Of the agreement, Ai said: “It is not legal or moral, it is shameful and it is not a solution. It will cause problems later.” "

Amnesty International: Urgent Action: Syrians returned from Greece, arbitrarily held (pdf):

"A group of 12 Syrian refugees, including four children, have been arbitrarily detained at the Düziçi camp since 27 April. They were some of the first Syrians voluntarily returned to Turkey from Greece since the signing of the EU-Turkey deal. Some have medical conditions for which they have not been receiving adequate treatment."

Bulgaria, still going to be a poor guardian of European’s External Borders (Border Monitoring Bulgaria, link):

"At the beginning of May 2016, Sofia and Ankara signed a protocol about returning migrants from Bulgaria back to Turkey from June the 1st, who crossed the border in an “illegal“ way. It is not clear what means this for the estimated 50 migrants, which are still arriving in Bulgaria on a daily basis to transit the country to Western Europe. The Signing was accelerated after the EU and Turkey sealed their controversial deal on returning refugees (on March 18 this year), which forced Brussels to make serious concessions to Ankara in an attempt to halt the migrant flow.".

News (21-22.5.16)

Vote Leave embroiled in race row over Turkey security threat claims - Brexit group ‘appealing to prejudice’ with argument that Turkey’s accession to EU would put Britons at greater risk of crime (Guardian, link)

Refugees tell of being pushed back into Greece from Balkans (Daily Sabah, link): "Dreaming of reaching Western European countries, desperate refugees said they are being pushed back into Greece by some Balkan countries even though their papers are complete. Some have been stuck in no-man's land for days"

Turkey wants withdrawal of NATO Refugees Surveillance Mission in the Aegean Sea (Keep Talking Greece, link): "Daily Eleftheros Typos that obtained the report Greek diplomats sent to the political and military leadership in Athens, writes that “Turkey expressed its wish to have ending of the NATO action in the Aegean Sea and the Alliance is expected to take up the issue in near future even before the NATO Summit in Warsaw.”"

Turkey refuses EU travel to highly skilled Syrian refugees: report (DW, link): "German media has reported that Ankara is banning Syrian academics from leaving Turkey. Turkey has already threatened to end a migration deal with the EU amid the ongoing dispute over visa-free travel for its citizens."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (20.5.16)
African Civil Society condemns the hunt for migrants on the continent (pdf):

"African civil society condemns these hunting policies for migrants that grow everywhere on the African continent with the support of the European institutions under the guise of the fight against "irregular" migration. The current situation in Libya is a sad illustration with anti-immigration brigade heavily armed, with the support of the European Union, which tracks day and night the sub-Saharan migrant workers cram in detention centers instead of effectively combating traffickers and Libyan smugglers...

The lure of European financial aid to fight against migration transforms the African political authorities in real persecutors of their brothers and sisters who are looking for work to live and feed their families. This could recall the time of slavery abolished there only two centuries. The European Union, at the expense of its humanist values, and shamelessly, in African countries outsources its security migration policy.

African civil society calls for the African Union commission, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and all African heads of state to listen to the voice of their people and engage resolutely in a real regional integration process. Only a true African integration could prevent our countries to always be the instrument of European policy and will prevent brave young hope of tomorrow's Africa, being killed in other countries on the continent seeking win their daily bread."

Signed by: The West African Observatory on Migrations (WAOM), The Pan African Network for the Defense of Migrants' Rights (PANiDMR), Caritas - Migration and Development Network (MADE) – Africa, Moroccan Transnational Network on Migration and Development (RMTMD), Samir ABI, Visions Solidaires.

CYPRUS: Recent conflicts at Kofinou constitute a manifestation of the Center’s Abandonment by the Government (pdf) and: Greek (pdf)

"During Saturday night (14.05.16), a number of serious incidents were noted between residents of the Kofinou Center for Asylum Seekers, which resulted in the injury of certain individuals and became the cause for great turbulence.i KISA condemns in the most unreserved manner any act of violence, no matter its source. At the same time however, we consider the particular incident to constitute an expression of the chronic and structural problems which are present at Kofinou and which have been exacerbated due to the Ministry of Interior’s continued delay in deciding upon the Center’s new supervision body. As a result of the above, the Kofinou Reception Center for Asylum Seekers continues to remain without any Administration Unit for the past eight months."

Greece: Campaign for Access to Asylum: Open Letter to the Asylum Service (pdf)

"The great difficulty in access to the asylum procedure was the reason why our campaign was founded in 2012. Today, four years later, not only hasn’t this problem been solved but it has greatly deteriorated....

The problem has now reached alarming levels, given that:

- the refugee population is a much-afflicted population (because of the sufferings from the war and persecutions, the difficult journey towards our country and also the severe deficiencies of our country regarding their reception) which is in a state of great uncertainty.

- a great number of those people belong to particularly vulnerable groups (40% chlidren, a great number of sick people and people with disabilities).

- the documents of a large number of those people have already expired and as a result they are in risk of arrest, detention and deportation, as they are in state of legal uncertainty."

The DCR/ECRE desk research on application of a safe third country and a first country of asylum concepts to Turkey (link)

"There is currently no meaningful capacity in Turkey for permanent independent monitoring of migration and border control management practices of Turkish authorities. In particular with regard to Turkey’s extensive land borders in the south and east and the increasing number of detention centres that are being used and established by the Turkish authorities. This means that present practices of immigration and border authorities remain outside any meaningful and independent scrutiny....

The present analysis of the current legal framework for international protection in Turkey and the available evidence of gaps in asylum seekers’ and refugees’ access to human rights, absence of effective access to procedural guarantees during the asylum procedure, and documented cases of refoulement, does not allow for the conclusion that Turkey meets the criteria laid down in Article 38(1) and Article 35 recast Asylum Procedures Directive."

See: Final version (pdf)

EU: Justice and Home Affairs Council, 20 May 2016: Final press release (pdf): including: "Council expressed support for Greece's designation of Turkey as a safe country for return of irregular migrants"

"B" Points Agenda (for discussion, pdf), "A" Points (legislative, adopted without discussion) and "A" Points (non-legislative, adopted without discussion). See Background Note (pdf)

Refugees tell of being pushed back into Greece from Balkans (ekathimerini.com, link):

"IDOMENI - Anwar Ismail Murad passed almost effortlessly along what has become known as the Balkan route, heading north from Greece to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, through Serbia, Croatia and on to Slovenia. He reached there on February 14, when the border was still open, but that’s where his dream abruptly died....

From then on, against all expectations — and against official policy — Murad found himself kicked back across nearly all the borders he had passed through...

Balkan countries along the route say they do not force potential asylum-seekers back across the border they just came from. But Murad’s case is by no means the only one."

Turkish minister: Anti-terror law amendment ‘not on the agenda’ (euractiv, link):

"The granting of visa liberalisation, and to a lesser extent the German parliament’s expected recognition of the Armenian genocide, could threaten to derail the EU’s refugee pact with Turkey. EurActiv’s partner Der Tagesspiegel spoke with the Turkish Minister of Youth and Sport, Çagatay Kiliç....

The EU needs Ankara to change its anti-terror laws if it is to grant visa liberalisation to its citizens. Will Turkey follow through on this?

We have to make it clear what we mean when we talk about anti-terror legislation. The PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) is a terrorist organisation, it is classed as such by Germany and the EU. We are fighting a war on terror, so we have to stand together. It’s the EU that is going to have to move when it comes to defining the fight against terror...

So an amendment will not be made to the anti-terror law?

It’s not on the agenda."

Are You Syrious (link)

Bulgaria: Bigger and stronger wall

"The Bulgarian government plans to fill the gaps at its borders with Greece and Turkey in order to stop refugees and migrants from entering the country, German newspaper Bildt reports. The government would, according to the report, consider establishing a fence along certain parts of the country’s the border with Greece. It also planned to extend the fences along the Turkish border by another 160 kilometers over summer. The report says that action in the Aegean to tackle smuggling has shifted the migrant route to Western Europe from Turkey through Bulgaria."

Serbia: Up to 600 people daily in Belgrade

"According to Info Park and other organizations working with refugees in Serbia, a number of refugees going through Serbia is still high. They estimate that at any moment, there are at least 500–600 people in transit in Belgrade.

The refugees over the last couple of days are predominantly composed of Afghani citizens along with a smaller number of Syrian and Iraqi families with children. They are mainly coming from Macedonia, via Preshevo, while smaller part comes from Bulgaria, via Stara planina, according to Info Park."

And see: Guide to Asylum, reunification, and relocation in Greece is now available in Urdu, Arabic and Kurdish

Exclusive Video: Worst Riots Ever Break Out at Idomeni Refugee Camp (Greek Reporter, link)

Hungary: Updates on the asylum and migration situation in Hungary: May 6th - May 18th (migszol.com, link)

"As mentioned in our first situation update, one of the ways we at MigSzol can influence the current situation is through documentation. Many people are still passing through Hungary every day, and recently the importance of Hungary as a transit country has been increasing again: there are many things happening at both the Serbian and the Austrian borders and the situation is changing quickly. Even though most of the camps are full (and often overcrowded), there is very little information about the conditions there available.

Most importantly, see here for the information leaflet prepared by the Hungarian Helsinki committee."

See also: UNHCR: Hungary: As a Country of Asylum (pdf)

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (19.5.16)
How real is the new irregular migration threat from Libya and what do the figures exactly say? (New Europe link):

"Recent reports and data available paint a mixed, if not confusing picture.

According to a leaked document by the Dutch Presidency of the EU to the Strategic Committee on Immigration, Frontiers and Asylum of 3 May, during the first four months of 2016 there have been 27,810 arrivals from Libya, compared with approximately 26,000 in both 2014 and 2015 in the same period. In April 2016, there have been 9,116 arrivals, compared with 15,679 in April 2015 and 16,061 in April 2014."

Greeks rally to help as EU-Turkey deal leaves migrants locked up in limbo (The Conversation, link):

"After visiting refugee settlements in Lesbos and Piraeus and speaking to people helping the refugees, it is clear to me that the EU and Greek government are failing to provide even basic necessities to the thousands of people who have been used to deter further arrivals from Turkey.

The young refugees in Moria have been protesting against being imprisoned in a former military garrison for almost two months now, living in poor conditions but facing uncertainty about their future. There are 3,000 people living in facilities designed to accommodate a third of that number. I witnessed people fighting for food in queues."

Greece: Refugee “Hotspots” Unsafe, Unsanitary (HRW, link):

"(Athens) – Police are failing to protect people during frequent incidents of violence in closed centers on the Greek islands known as “hotspots,” Human Rights Watch said today. The centers were established for the reception, identification, and processing of asylum seekers and migrants. None of the three centers Human Rights Watch visited on Samos, Lesbos, and Chios in mid-May 2016, separate single women from unrelated adult men, and all three are unsanitary and severely overcrowded.

“In Europe’s version of refugee camps, women and children who fled war face daily violence and live in fear,” said Bill Frelick, refugee rights director at Human Rights Watch. “Lack of police protection, overcrowding, and unsanitary conditions create an atmosphere of chaos and insecurity in Greece’s razor wire-fenced island camps.”"

UNHCR: Daily report (18.5.16): 190,647 arrivals in the EU this year: 155,837 in Greece, 33,907 in Italy. 1,361 deaths/missing and:

"On 10 May, the Hungarian Parliament approved amendment package submitted by the Ministry of Interior last February. The legislative amendments will enter into force as of 1 June 2016. The amendments will, inter alia, terminate measures aiming to facilitate integration of beneficiaries, introduce mandatory and automatic revision of refugee status at least every three years; reduce the maximum period of stay in open reception centres after recognition from sixty to thirty days, and reduce the eligibility period for free of charge access to basic health care services following recognition from one year to six months."

"In Hungary, between 9 and 15 May, 255 people were admitted into the transit zones (122 in Röszke and 133 in Tompa). Further limits have been placed on the number of asylum-seekers admitted in each transit zone, reducing it from 30 people per day to 15 due to new procedures at the border including the activation of EURODAC checks, comprehensive interviews and national security screening conducted by the Constitution Protection Office (CPO). This has prolonged the waiting time for some 300 people awaiting admission without shelter, sanitation and hygiene facilities, exposed to protection and health risks. As of the beginning of May, for people previously registered though the EURODAC system the asylum procedure at the border is suspended until the European Union Member State responsible to process the asylum application claim is determined, as according to Dublin III regulation.

Europe helped Greece in its migration hour of need. Now Italy needs help (Politico, link):

"Record numbers of migrants are likely to arrive on Lampedusa. The EU can’t leave Rome to deal with problem on its own....

The Turkish model is not much help. Turkey is a NATO member and an EU candidate. In the best case scenario in Libya’s stabilization process it will take years for the internationally backed Fayez al-Sarraj government to be in control of its territory and to re-establish a functioning state to which migrants could be “returned.” The prospect of any immigration accord, let alone of a Turkish-like trade-off, with Libya is a medium-long term prospect at best.".

Turkey summons EU ambassador over refugee deal comment( (euractiv, link):

"Turkey summoned the top European Union envoy in the country on Tuesday (17 May) to complain about comments he made last week on the refugee deal between Ankara and the EU, Turkish foreign ministry sources said yesterday (18 May).....

But progress halted when Brussels insisted that Ankara must also reform its tough anti-terror laws for another part of the deal – further talks on EU membership for Turkey – to resume. Turkey said that was out of the question."

NATO summit to mull presence in central Mediterranean after Aegean ‘success’ (ekathimerini.com, link):

"The case for possible NATO cooperation with the European Union’s border managing agency Frontex to detect and stop human trafficking in the central Mediterranean will be discussed, among other pressing issues, at Thursday’s NATO summit of foreign ministers in Brussels."

News (19.5.16):

EU resettled fewer than 200 Syrians under Turkey deal (euobserver, link): "Only 177 Syrians have been resettled in EU states under a March deal with Turkey to stem the flow of people seeking international protection in Greece, according to figures presented on Wednesday (18 May) by the EU commission."

NGO workers denounce Italian hotspot system (DW, link): "Humanitarian groups are questioning Italy's ability to handle minors and victims of torture, as irregular migration from North African continues. Diego Cupolo reports from Pozzallo, Sicily."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (18.5.16)
European Commission: 18.5.16.

- Third report on relocation and resettlement (COM 360, pdf):

"Overall, progress on relocation since the Second Report on Relocation and Resettlement has been unsatisfactory. The Commission had set a target to relocate at least 20,000 persons by mid-May in its First Report on Relocation and Resettlement. The reality falls well short of this target. Only 355 additional persons have been relocated during the reporting period bringing the total number of persons relocated so far to 1,500 (909 from Greece and 591 from Italy)......

Austria,13 Hungary and Slovakia have still not submitted any pledge. In addition, a number of Member States (Germany and Poland) are not yet respecting the obligation under the Council Decision to indicate, every three months....

Greece is facing a humanitarian crisis that requires a quick and full implementation of the obligations assumed by Member States in the Council Decisions on relocation. As for Italy, although the numbers of people available for relocation has not yet seen a rapid increase, established seasonal patterns of migration point to the strong likelihood of an increase in the number of arrivals."

- Annex 1: Greece (pdf) Of the 63.302 pledges of relocation needed for Greece only 909 have been carried out.

- Annex 2: Italy (pdf) Of the 34,953 pledges of relocation need for Italy only 591 have been carried out.

- Annex 3: resettlement (pdf) 6.231 refugees have been resettled in the EU.

- Relocation and resettlement: State of Play (pdf)

See: Big Fail: The EU’s Relocation & Resettlement scheme (Keep Talking Greece, link): "The Relocation and Resettlement scheme for asylum seekers falls short and thus far beyond EU’s expectations. Apparently, the EU member-states are happy to have gotten rid of the problem and have 54,000 refugees stuck in Greece. "

Greece-Turkey deal: Plenary highlights: Europol, asylum reform, Turkey visa liberalisation (pdf):

"Aslym reform

reform of the EU's asylum system should be based on solidarity among member states as this will ensure the effective management of asylum applications, MEPs said in a debate on Wednesday with commissioners Frans Timmermans and Dimitris
Avramopoulos. Currently asylum demands need to be dealt with by the first EU country the applicant entered."

"Turkey visa liberalisation

MEPs voiced serious concerns about Turkey's lack of progress in meeting the EU’s conditions for liberalising its
visa regime for Turkish nationals in a debate on Wednesday."

A programme about British volunteers helping some of Europe's most vulnerable refugees (ITV, link): "25 days left"

Greek asylum system reaches breaking point (IRIN, link):

"As Greece prepares to deport an initial 500 migrants and refugees on Monday under a controversial agreement between the EU and Turkey, senior Greek officials say the pressure to process applications quickly has become too great, at the expense of legal and ethical standards.

“Insufferable pressure is being put on us to reduce our standards and minimise the guarantees of the asylum process,” Maria Stavropoulou, who heads the Greek Asylum Service, told IRIN.[We’re asked] to change our laws, to change our standards to the lowest possible under the EU directive [on asylum procedures].” [emphasis added]

Statewatch comments:

The EU demands in March 2016 to lower Greek asylum law standards were themselves based on the "lowest common" denominators already built into the EU Asylum Directive.

These lower than low standards are built into the: Letter from Mathias Ruete, Director-General of European Commission Directorate-General Migration and Home Affairs, to Vasileios Papadopoulos, Secretary-General, General Secretariat for Population and Social Cohesion, 5 May 2016 (pdf) and response: Hellenic Action for Human Rights: Pleiades Rejects European Commission Letter Regarding the Application of the Safe Third Country Concept to Turkey (Pleiades, link)

Interpol: increased border protection forces migrants to use people smugglers (Guardian, link):

"Deals such as EU-Turkey agreement in spotlight as report says 90% of irregular journeys to Europe facilitated by smugglers

Attempts to deter migrants from reaching Europe such as the EU-Turkey deal are likely to force people into the arms of smugglers, Interpol has said in a joint statement with the EU’s law enforcement agency.

More than 90% of recent irregular journeys to Europe were facilitated by smugglers, a figure that is likely to rise due to increased border protection, Interpol and Europol have concluded in a report on people smuggling.

“These numbers are expected to increase in the future in response to control measures taken by countries along the migratory routes,” the report says..."


EU plans for Libya risk crossing migration 'red lines' (euobserver, link):

"Italian officials and even German chancellor Angela Merkel have gone so far as to suggest that the EU should strike a deal with Libya similar to the one with Turkey, which allows the return of asylum seekers on the presumption that they are “safe” there.

The assessment that Turkey is safe for refugees and asylum seekers is wrong.

But the idea that Libya, riven by warring factions and with a fledgling and contested government of national unity that the EU is desperate to legitimise, can provide a safe haven is positively mind-boggling. "

Are You Syrious (link)

Syrians returned to Turkey under EU deal report being detained indefinitely in poor conditions and not being allowed to rejoin family members in Turkey:

"A group of 12 Syrians returned by plane on the 27th of April who were contacted by telephone said they had simply been detained without clear legal recourse since they arrived in a remote detention center in southern Turkey called Düziçi. The fate of two other Syrians deported along with hundreds of non-Syrians earlier in April is unknown.

“You can’t imagine how bad a situation we are in right now,” said one Syrian mother detained with her children, who now wants to return to Syria because she sees no alternative. “My children and I are suffering, the food is not edible. I’m forcing my children to eat because I don’t have any money to buy anything, but they refuse because there are bugs in it.”"

Violence erupts in Samos as a direct result of failings in the EU/Turkey deal

"Operators on the ground in Samos are witnessing first hand the failings of the EU/Turkey deal. The ‘1 in 1 out’ theory is not working in practice, with disastrous effects.

In Samos there are 1,000 refugees detained in a closed camp built to house just 300 people. 300 of those detained are children, including some with special needs & disabilities. Less than 20 people have been transferred off Samos since the deal was signed in March and despite the ‘crack down’ refugees have continued to arrive every day to the shores of Samos, sometimes 50 a day. As the numbers detained have been swelling, inevitably tensions have been building too".

News (18.5.16)

Refugees, migrants reach 54,574 in Greece on Wednesday (ekathimerini.com, link): "The number of identified refugees and migrants across Greece reached 54,574 on Wednesday, according to figures released by the country's Central Coordinating Body for the Management of Migration. According to the coordinating body, 8,549 refugees and migrants were staying on Greece's eastern Aegean islands – including 30 people who had arrived over the last 24 hours – while 14,510 were located in areas across Attica."

Borderless: Undercover with the People Smugglers - Inside the people-smuggling rings specialising in getting refugees into Europe (aljazeera.com, link)

Refugees will repay EU spending almost twice over in five years - report (Guardian, link): "Investigation into impact of refugees in Europe finds rising public debt will be offset by a much greater rise in GDP"

Cyprus, KISA: Recent conflicts at Kofinou constitute a manifestation of the Center’s Abandonment by the Government (link): "During Saturday night (14.05.16), a number of serious incidents were noted between residents of the Kofinou Center for Asylum Seekers, which resulted in the injury of certain individuals and became the cause for great turbulence. KISA condemns in the most unreserved manner any act of violence, no matter its source. At the same time however, we consider the particular incident to constitute an expression of the chronic and structural problems which are present at Kofinou and which have been exacerbated due to the Ministry of Interior’s continued delay in deciding upon the Center’s new supervision body. As a result of the above, the Kofinou Reception Center for Asylum Seekers continues to remain without any Administration Unit for the past eight months."

Italy: More than 1,100 migrants rescued off Italian coasts (Daily Sabah, link)

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (17.5.16)
UN Human Rights: Greece: UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants concludes his follow up country visit to Greece (pdf): Fourteen Preliminary Recommendations on Greece:

"The unfortunate use of mandatory detention: The law limits administrative detention upon arrival to twenty-five days. However in practice detention at times lasts longer. I deeply regret the Greek government’s policy of increasing the use of detention of persons irregularly entering the Greek territory, including unaccompanied children and families."

"Establish a roster of lawyers and interpreters for easy access of the Asylum Service, First Reception Service and other authorities. Appoint immediately camp management for every hotspot and every open camp, in charge of coordinating activities of all actors and protecting the human rights of migrants; provide clear and public information with regards to the authority of the management at central level."

And nine Recommendations addressed to the EU, including:

"Ensure an independent and thorough human rights impact assessment to overview how the EU-migration agenda, the EU-Turkey statement and all future agreements on mobility and migration are carried out.

Examine the EU's accountability under an agreement such as the EU-Turkey statement.".

Greek journalists draft ethical code to fight racism on refugees coverage (European federation of Journalists, link):

"The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) is strongly supporting the initiative of its affiliate in Greece the Journalists’ Union of Macedonia and Thrace Daily Newspapers (ESIEMTH) – who drafted a proposal for the adoption of the Anti-racism Ethics Code of the Greek journalists called The Charter of Idomeni, in the name of the border control village where thousands of refugees are passing through to reach Northern European countries."

Report Launched for "Mapping Refugee Media Journeys" project (Open University, link):

"The Open University has released a ground–breaking research report on how refugees use smartphones. It was led by Prof. Marie Gillespie and was carried out in partnership with France Medias Monde....

The report, “Mapping Refugee Media Journeys: Smart Phones and Social Media Networks” explores the benefits and risks of mobile phones for refugees. It calls for action from the European Commission and Member States to fulfill their responsibilities under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention to provide relevant, reliable and timely information and news for refugees."

See report: Mapping Refugee Media Journeys Smartphones and Social Media Networks (pdf) and Website (link)

The Lampedusa Hotspot Failure: Refugees Demand Dignity (Liberties.eu, link):

"Having been held as prisoners on the island of Lampedusa for months now, a number of refugees started a hunger strike to demand to be enabled to leave the island. Besides the desperate living conditions in the island's former reception center and first European hotspot, refugees expressed their opposition to identifications that would force them to stay in Italy, even though they wish to settle in another European country. They are roughly 550 migrants living in these conditions, a figure that is set to increase since multiple new landings took place in the last few days. "

Samos: Greece: Revealing Truths: Talking with Refugees in Samos (Sofiane Ait Chalalet and Chris Jones, link):

"The term ‘the system’ is one we have come across many times when talking with refugees and with poor people in many places and in various countries. It refers to the ways in which people understand the world and their place in it. It is also a description of the world in which they live under the gaze of teachers, police, social workers, border guards, prison officers, NGOs, bosses and supervisors and so on. It is the system that watches and humiliates and as one young Syrian refugee told us, it celebrates and feeds on wars. “Always war“ he said. “If it is not shooting you in your body, it is trying to destroy your brain and always shoots at our pockets.”"

Syrians returned to Turkey under EU deal 'have had no access to lawyers' (Guardian, link):

"Refugees report being detained indefinitely in poor conditions and not being allowed to rejoin family members in Turkey...

The first Syrians to be returned by plane under the EU-Turkey deal have been detained in a remote camp for the past three weeks with no access to lawyers, casting further doubts over EU claims that they are being sent back to a safe third country.

With hundreds more likely to be expelled in similar fashion in the coming weeks, the returnees have warned that those following in their wake face arbitrary detention, an inscrutable asylum process, and substandard living conditions. Their claims undermine the legitimacy of the EU-Turkey migration deal,...."

UN proposal would ask EU ships to enforce Libya arms embargo (euractiv, link): "The European Union’s Operation Sophia would be tasked with enforcing a UN arms embargo that was imposed on Libya in 2011, during the uprising against Moamer Kadhafi. European powers are also looking at building up Libya’s coast guards to ramp up operations against migrant smugglers operating off the coast of the north African country." and:

Libya to be military equipped in fight against ISIL - The US and other world powers agree to help unity government in the fight against ISIL threat in Libya.(aljazeera.com)

EU struggles to save Turkey agreement (New Europe, link):

"Tensions continue to rise over a deal to grant Turks visa-free travel rights within the European Union. Controversy hit a peak when the European Commission’s third report on Turkey’s progress in fulfilling the requirements of the visa liberalisation roadmap found that Turkey is still short several benchmarks. Five of them, including one of the most important benchmarks, have yet to be addressed.

More specifically, under the fundamental rights block, Turkey still needs to “revise – in line with the European Convention for Human Rights (ECHR) and with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) case law, the EU acquis and EU Member States practices – the legal framework as regards organised crime and terrorism, as well as its interpretation by the courts and by the security forces and the law enforcement agencies, so as to ensure the right to liberty and security, the right to a fair trial and freedom of expression, of assembly and association in practice”."

UNHCR (17.5.16)

"On 13 May, 1,034 people arrived to Italy following several search and rescue operations. They were disembarked in Augusta (344), Catania (286), Crotone
(231) and Palermo (173). Despite the Coast Guard’s initial communication regarding the nationality of arrivals, following disembarkation, UNHCR did not observe large groups of people originating from Syria. Boats disembarked from Egypt carried people mainly from Egypt, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, and Comoros Islands. Boats departed from Libya carried mainly people originating from various Sub Sahara countries."

"On 13 May, the Austrian Minister of the Interior announced that for the time being, border controls will not be introduced at the Austrian-Italian Brennero crossing. He said that currently numbers of asylumseekers and migrants have dropped significantly and linked this to tightened controls on trains taking place in Italy prior to reaching Austria through Brennero.."

News (17.5.16)

Stop jailing refugee children, UN adviser tells Greece (euobserver, link)

World must tackle 'once-in-a-generation' refugee crisis: Angelina Jolie (Reuters, link): "Global leaders must come together to tackle a 'once-in-a-generation' migrant crisis, said U.N. special envoy Angelina Jolie, or risk greater instability that could drive more refugees to Europe. The United Nations and the declaration of human rights were among the world-changing outcomes of the global refugee crisis after World War Two, Jolie said, adding that the international community is now at a similar pivotal moment. "I believe this is again that once-in-a-generation moment when nations have to pull together," the Hollywood actress and director told the BBC."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (16.5.16)
EU: European Commission statistics on the refugee crisis: updated with new figures from 12 May.

European Commission letter to Greek asylum authorities: all is well in Turkey

A letter from the European Commission to the Greek authorities setting out why Turkey should be considered a safe third country has been condemned by a Greek human rights group as an attempt "to establish standardized reasoning for systematically denying the asylum claims of Syrian and non-Syrian nationals as inadmissible in Greece."

Key documents:
Letter from Mathias Ruete, Director-General of European Commission Directorate-General Migration and Home Affairs, to Vasileios Papadopoulos, Secretary-General, General Secretariat for Population and Social Cohesion, 5 May 2016 (pdf)

and Hellenic Action for Human Rights: Pleiades Rejects European Commission Letter Regarding the Application of the Safe Third Country Concept to Turkey (Pleiades, link)

To Deal with the Refugee Crisis, Europe Needs to Confront the Demons From Its History (Vice, link): "In 2012 I flew to Budapest for the BBC to cover the right–wing political car-crash that is Hungary.

In the parliament, right by the Danube, I interviewed one of the leaders of Jobbik, a thinly disguised fascist movement who had only just given up having a uniformed militia.

Off camera I asked one member of the party, "What's your attitude to the British National Party?" He answered: "Well, they are against Muslims whereas the people we have the problem with is Jews.""

Why is the cost of hosting refugees falling on the world's poorest states? (The Guardian, link): "Whether or not a similar scenario will play out in Kenya is hard to tell. Certainly, one of the great challenges in advocating for a rights-respecting outcome is that European states hardly have a moral leg to stand on in all of this. While Kenya has been hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees for decades (albeit begrudgingly, and often at the expense of refugees’ quality of life), most European governments have shown a shocking lack of willingness to take in any more than a token number of refugees.

For decades, the default response to refugee crises has been to set up camps or settlements and coerce refugees into them. The UNHCR launched an Alternatives to Camps policy in 2014, but no viable alternatives were found to camps such as Dadaab and Kakuma."

News (16.5.16)

Austria backs down on Brenner Pass border checks (The Local, link): "Austria said Friday it would no longer seek to resume controversial checks on its frontier with Italy after tougher measures by Rome have led to a huge drop in migrant numbers.

Vienna had threatened to re-impose controls on the Brenner Pass in the Alps as part of a string of anti-migrant measures if Italy failed to reduce the number of new arrivals heading to Austria.

"The number of illegal migrants has dropped to almost zero in the past weeks," Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka told a joint press conference with his Italian counterpart Angelino Alfano at the pass, a key north-south route.

"That's why it is not necessary to carry out border controls at the Brenner pass for now," Sobotka said."

EU-Turkey deal: MEPs to go to Greece to check on refugees and implementation of EU-Turkey deal (press release, pdf): "A Civil Liberties Committee delegation will travel to Greece from 18 to 20 May to check the situation of refugees at the external borders of the EU and assess how the EU-Turkey deal to manage migrant and asylum-seekers flows into the EU is being implemented. MEPs will visit the Greece/FYROM border, the island of Lesvos and Athens. They will also meet representatives of the Greek Government, and EU and international bodies, as well as NGOs."

Macedonia: More than 11,000 migrants sent back to Greece (Anadolu Agency, link): "Macedonian authorities have sent more than 11,000 migrants back to Greece since it closed its borders to migrants in early March.

Director of the Macedonian Interior Ministry of Strategic Affairs Department Nataliya Spirova told Anadolu Agency that, in total, 11,803 migrants had been apprehended and returned to Greece since the country sealed its borders on March 8.

She added the border patrols were done by Greek, foreign and Macedonian police and military forces."

NETHERLANDS: Mayor admits helping Syrian refugees go into hiding (update) (Dutch News, link): "A Dutch mayor has been accused of putting himself above the law for helping a family of Syrian refugees avoid deportation.

Jos Heijmans told a council meeting in Weert, Limburg, that he acted to prevent the family, consisting of a mother and her four children, being separated from her younger brother. Only the brother, who is 18, had permission to stay in the Netherlands.

After two failed attempts to keep the family in the Netherlands legally – first through the courts and then by writing to junior justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff – Heijmans helped to shelter the mother and her children, 1Limburg reported."

UN envoy blasts EU's 'lack of vision' on migration (Ekathimerini, link): "A United Nations envoy for human rights has criticized the European Union's response to the refugee crisis as showing a "lack of vision," operating under legal ambiguity, and backing the detention of newly arrived migrants in Greece.

The envoy, Francois Crepeau, said the March agreement between the EU and Turkey to send back migrants reaching Europe required "much stronger legal instruments to ensure legal accountability.""

UN says turning migrants away 'won't work' (BBC News, link): "The UN high commissioner for refugees says the migrants crisis is now a global phenomenon and that simply turning them away "won't work".

Filippo Grandi told the BBC that more nations had to help the "few countries" shouldering the burden, by increasing both funding and resettlement.

He said that, last year, fewer than 1% of 20 million refugees had been resettled in another nation.

More are fleeing conflict and hardship than at any other time in history."

U.N. urges Greece to stop detaining migrant children (Reuters, link): "A top United Nations official urged Greece on Monday to stop detaining refugee and migrant children, some of whom are locked up in police cells for weeks, and to develop child protection services instead.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Francois Crepeau, said he had met unaccompanied children held in police stations for more than two weeks without access to the outdoors, and "traumatised and distressed" by the experience.

Others were with their families in overcrowded detention centres, where inter-communal frictions and contradictory information created "an unacceptable level of confusion, frustration, violence and fear", he said.

"Children should not be detained - period," said Crepeau, on a fact-finding mission in Greece from May 12 to 16."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (14-15.5.16)
David Miliband's refugee aid group in corruption probe (Daily Telegraph, link):

"The United States is investigating an international aid group headed by David Miliband over allegations of corruption in projects intended to help Syrian civilians and refugees. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is one of three international groups to have had millions of pounds in funding withdrawn over alleged bid-rigging and bribery....

Allegations relate to the organisations systematically overpaying for goods in Turkey. A senior USAID official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said private Turkish companies had sold cut-rate blankets and other basic materials at vastly inflated prices and pocketed the difference...."

Refugees: German police chief concerned at growing anti-refugee violence (DW, link):

"Germany's federal police chief says there have been 45 arson ttacks on refugee shelters so far this year. He warned of the potential threat posed by organized right-wing extremist crime....

Speaking to newspapers of the Funke media group, Münch said the "increasing level of violence was especially of concern," adding that 45 arson attacks had been carried out on refugee shelters so far this year.."

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF): Europe, don't turn your back on asylum: #TakePeopleIn (link)

"Meanwhile the welcome offered by Europe to those in Greece often erases what little hope people had left. In island ‘hotspots’ there are virtually no safeguards in place. Women fear to go to the toilet once darkness falls, mothers beg for formula milk to feed their babies, and men of all ages lose their dignity fighting over scraps of food or who is next in line.

European countries, people are in need of your help and protection – not just your money. Is World War II so long ago that you no longer recall the basic human need to flee from violence and persecution when left with no other choice? We understand that meeting the huge challenges of the global displacement crisis has become a controversial political issue, but for us it is first and foremost a humanitarian one, and it should be for you too.

"Many of your citizens have risen to this challenge by volunteering to help others, but your leadership has lagged behind for fear of potential political consequences. We appeal to you, the leaders of Europe, to rise to the challenge: use your substantial resources to welcome and offer protection to those who need your help."

Greece: Is The Relocation Program Real? (News that Moves, link): "There is a lot of scepticism among the refugee population regarding the legitimacy of the relocation program. Our team reports that almost everyone they talk to seems to believe that the program is not a real program. It seems this opinion is informed by the extreme difficulties and frustrations that many people have had in accessing the Greek Asylum Service Skype line."

and see: Statistical Data of the Greek Asylum Service – Relocation Procedures (Minister of the Interior, pdf)

Greece-Turkey: Migrant influx is down but deal spat fuels fears (ekathimerini.com/, link):

"The number of migrants arriving in Greece dropped 90 percent in April, the European Union border agency Frontex said Friday, a sign that an agreement between Turkey and the EU to curb migration has had an impact, though tensions between Ankara and Brussels over Turkey’s reluctance to amend its anti-terrorism laws have fueled fears that the deal will collapse.....

In Athens, however, there are fears that the sharp drop in numbers may reverse soon as a deal between the EU and Turkey to curb migration is wobbling following Ankara’s insistence on its citizens being granted visa-free travel to Europe while it refuses to satisfy EU demands for it to reform its anti-terrorism legislation. The deal involves Turkey taking back the majority of migrants that reach Greece. If it collapses, a lull in arrivals may be reversed. Already the virtually zero influx before Orthodox Easter has picked up, with dozens of migrants now arriving on the islands every day." [emphasis added]

Are You Syrious (link)

The Charter of Idomeni receives support among journalist groups.

"The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) “strongly supports” the initiative of its affiliate in Greece the Journalists’ Union of Macedonia and Thrace Daily Newspapers (ESIEMTH)?—?who drafted a proposal for the adoption of the Anti-racism Ethics Code of the Greek journalists called The Charter of Idomeni, named after the location at northern border. The Charter explains that it aims at preserving “the social role of journalists in the conditions created by the presence of refugees, migrants, minorities and socially vulnerable groups in Greece, discourage and denounce climates of intolerance, guarantee the right to freedom of expression and press freedom and the rights of refugees and provide journalists with conditions of voluntary commitment in performing their duties”. The draft has 11 articles and is described as a practical guide for local and foreign journalists covering the migrant issues. The draft has also received the support of the Italian NGO Carta di Roma."

Increasing number of people caught while trying to cross the Greek-FYROM border

"Macedonian authorities report that an increasing number of people have been caught while trying to irregularly cross the Greek-FYROM border. Most of them are from Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Iraq.

According to News That Moves, people crossing irregularly into FYROM will first be transferred to the camp in Gevgelija, and then returned to Greece. According to the FYROM Asylum Law, amended on April 4th, claims submitted by persons who crossed irregularly from a “safe third country” like Greece will be considered unfounded. Only ill and injured refugees can be transferred to the Asylum center in Gazi Baba in Skopje."

Italy deploys 110 more guards to patrol Alpine pass after warning from Austrian officials

"Italy said on Friday it had deployed 110 more guards to patrol the Alpine crossing point between the two countries, in order to keep refugees from traveling into Austria, after Vienna threatened to introduce tighter border controls that could have hurt trade routes by slowing down traffic. "Migrants who arrive here thinking to go to Austria will be taken to Italian shelters”, said Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano at the Brenner Pass."

UNHCR Daily Report (13.5.16)

"Yesterday, according to the Italian Cost Guard, some 1,000 refugees and migrants were rescued off the coast of Italy, including refugee families and unaccompanied children. In one operation, some 500 people travelling in two fishing boats that had departed several days earlier from Egypt were rescued off Sicily, south east of Cape Passero. Apart from the two fishing boats that sailed from Egypt, it is believed that there were other smaller boats that came from Libya. Disembarkation of the 1,000 people rescued yesterday is taking place today at four different locations in southern Italy: Catania, Palermo, Augusta and Crotone, and will probably last the whole day.UNHCR staff will be present and will be giving information and assistance to the persons rescued."

"A proposal was made in the German Parliament to determine the status of Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria as safe countries of origin. Federal Minister of the Interior, Thomas de Maizière, stated that there are “good reasons” for declaring these states as safe countries of origin. The government hopes that the proposal will lead to accelerated asylum procedures, faster returns for rejected asylum seekers originating from these countries and a “deterrent effect” for people from “safe counters” intending to come travel to Germany. A final decision will be made on the 10 June by the Bundesrat. Many federal states have not yet taken a final position."

Hungary to resume transfers of asylum seekers under Dublin regulation to Greece in overall climate of human rights repression (ECRE, link):

"The Hungarian Office for Immigration and Nationality has recently issued decisions ordering the transfer of asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin III Regulation. ECRE member Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) has expressed concern regarding these developments and called on Hungary to continue the suspension of transfers to Greece....

“The HHC find this recent development extremely worrisome: first it is unfair to Greece, which is already struggling to be able to handle the backlog of cases and provide shelter and protection to refugees. Second, it is clear that the situation in Greece for refugees and asylum seekers is still far from the standards required by the European Union. According to information provided by the ELENA network, there is no other Member State which orders transfers to Greece, which shows that the situation is still not assessed as satisfactory,” stated the HHC."

News (14-15.5.16)

Expert-level talks ongoing in Brussels to overcome terror impasse with Turkey: EU envoy (.hurriyetdailynews.com, link)

Germany: Munich police brace for rival protests at anti-refugee party's meeting (Guardian, link): "Right- and leftwing protesters expected at Alternative for Germany event in beer hall where Adolf Hitler once gave a speech."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (13.5.16)
European Commission: Statistics on hotspots, returns, relocation, financial pledges and civil protection: updated 13.5.16

UNHCR: Hungary As a Country of Asylum: Observations on restrictive legal measures and subsequent practice implemented between July 2015 and March 2016 (pdf):

"In UNHCR’s view, legislation and related Decrees adopted by Hungary in July and September 2015, and progressively implemented between July 2015 and 31 March 2016, have had the combined effect of limiting and deterring access to asylum in the country. These include, most notably, the following.

(a) the erection of a fence along Hungary’s borders with Serbia and Croatia, accompanied by the introduction of a procedure in which individuals arriving at the border who wish to submit an asylum application in Hungary must do so in special “transit zones” in which the asylum procedure and reception conditions are not in accordance with European Union (EU) and international standards...

(b) the application of the ‘safe third country’ concept to countries on the principal route followed by asylum-seekers to Hungary – namely Greece, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia – without adequate procedural safeguards, and despite the fact that no other EU Member State applies a presumption of safety to those countries and that UNHCR has recommended that asylum-seekers should not be returned to them...

(c) the criminalization of irregular entry into Hungary through the border fence, punishable by actual or suspended terms of imprisonment of up to ten years – and/or the imposition of an expulsion order. Prison sentences, at variance with the EU Return Directive, are imposed following fasttracked trials of questionable fairness, and are not suspended in the event that the concerned individual submits an asylum application... (...)

In conclusion, UNHCR considers these significant aspects of Hungarian law and practice raise serious concerns as regards compatibility with international and European law, and may be at variance with the country’s international and European obligations."

And see: Hungary to resume transfers of asylum seekers under Dublin regulation to Greece in overall climate of human rights repression (ECRE, link): "The Hungarian Office for Immigration and Nationality has recently issued decisions ordering the transfer of asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin III Regulation. ECRE member Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) has expressed concern regarding these developments and called on Hungary to continue the suspension of transfers to Greece.

Transfers of asylum seekers to Greece have been suspended since 2011 following rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union, on account of the risk of inhuman and degrading treatment of asylum seekers in the country."

UK-EU: House of Lords committee says EU's Operation Sophia deals with "symptoms, not causes" and "cannot deliver its mandate"

A new report from the UK House of Lords' European Union Committee has commended the EU's "anti-smuggling" military operation in the Mediterranean for its efforts at search and rescue, but notes that it is ultimately unable to meet its aims of deterring migrants, disrupting smugglers' networks and thwart smugglers' business models as it deals with "symptoms, not causes".

Key document: European External Action Service: Planning for a possible non-executive Civilian CSDP mission in Libya (LIMITE docxno: 7491/16, 1 April 2016, pdf):

Number of people arriving on Greek islands dropped dramatically in April

"The number of migrants arriving on the Greek islands in April plunged by 90% compared to the previous month, reaching fewer than 2 700. The drop is a result of several factors, including The EU-Turkey agreement and stricter border policies applied by the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia at its border with Greece.

“The drop in the number of arrivals on the Greek islands was dramatic. The total for all of April is well below the number of people we often saw reaching just the island of Lesbos on a daily basis during last year’s peak months,” said Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri.

Syrians again accounted for the largest share of the migrants coming to the Greek islands, trailed by nationals from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq."

European External Action Service/European Commission: One year after: the impact of the EU Regional Strategy for Syria, Iraq and against Da'esh (10 May 2016, pdf):

"This paper shows that EU actions in the region are consistent with the Regional Strategy's objectives and have contributed to supporting political solutions to the Syrian and Iraqi crises, as well as the degradation of Da'esh capacities, while playing an essential role in alleviating the dramatic humanitarian consequences of the crises. Substantial coordinated efforts have been made to defeating Da'esh with a large range of internal and external measures. The scale of the Syria crisis is such that efforts will never cover all needs but the London Conference in February 2016 confirmed the priority sectors where the EU should continue focusing its support: education, job opportunities and protection. Efforts will continue to be made on livelihoods and health, supporting also host communities who bear huge socio-economic pressure. On Iraq, the active support of the EU to the reform, governance, stabilisation and reconciliation agenda is key to the peaceful and democratic future of the country, as is the political will on the part of the Iraqis to achieve those aims."

This is not a ‘migrant crisis’ - it's a crisis of inequality and war (Global Justice Now, link):

"The media is wrong to characterise the issues surrounding the thousands of people attempting to travel into Europe as a ‘migrant crisis’, according to a briefing released today by campaign group Global Justice Now. Instead, attention should be drawn to the multiple crises that are forcing people to move. The briefing argues that these include:

Inequality. Over the long term, the most important driver of migration. With 62 people having more than half the wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population, more people are being forced to flee poverty.

War and conflict is raging all along Europe’s borders. People are dying and being forced to leave their homes. Countries in Europe have a degree of complicity in these conflicts through either their geo-politics or through the sales of weapons to the countries in conflict.

Climate change. Increased drought, famine, flooding and natural disasters are already forcing people to move across borders.

The briefing goes beyond the well-documented evidence of the benefits that come from migration to pose the question, what would happen if we were to get rid of borders completely?"

See: Migrant crisis or poverty crisis? Why free movement is vital in the battle for global justice (pdf)

Policing the hotspots: Europol setting up team of 200 investigators to deploy to migration hotspots (press release, 12 May 2016, pdf):

"Europol’s Management Board today approved the recruitment of up to 200 counter-terrorist and other investigators for deployment to migration hotspots in Greece and other countries. Europol will form this pool of law enforcement officers through their secondment from national services in EU Member States. Up to 50 of these ‘guest officers’ will be deployed on rotation at key points on the external border of the EU to strengthen the security checks on the inward flows of migrants, in order to identify suspected terrorists and criminals."

Anti-discrimination unit urges governments to reject irregular migrants “offence of solidarity” (Human Rights Europe, link):

"Anti-discrimination experts say governments risk human rights abuses if they establish an “offence of solidarity” in their bid to control irregular migration.

Christian Ahlund, Chair of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), warned that criminalising social and humanitarian assistance to irregular migrants could also encourage discrimination.

“It is highly counterproductive to the delivery of human rights to establish an ‘offence of solidarity’ and it discourages irregular migrants from seeking out services, including urgent medical care,” he said."

See the report: ECRI General Policy Recommendation No. 16: On safeguarding irregularly present migrants from discrimination (pdf)

News (13.5.16)

Bulgarian Cabinet Allocates BGN 6.2 M to Continuing Fence on Border with Turkey (Novinite, link): "The Bulgarian cabinet has approved additional expenditures to the budget of the Council of Ministers amounting to nearly BGN 6.5 M, the government's press service informed on Friday.

BGN 6.2 M will be allocated for continuing the construction of the temporary fence along the Bulgarian-Turkish border, in particular the section running through the territory of Burgas region.

The temporary facility plays importance role in countering the increasing migrant pressure exerted on the Bulgarian-Turkish border. The fence is vital in guarding the state border and bringing under control the refugee wave."

EU should take charge of asylum, says EP negotiator (EUobserver, link): "Cecilia Wikstroem once hid a family of refugees in her house, but the Swedish liberal MEP is adamant that the best way to deal with migrants is through legislation, not the goodwill of individuals.

In 2013, she was made responsible for negotiating the European Parliament’s position on a proposed update to the Dublin regulation, which stipulates that asylum claims must be processed in the first EU country that migrants enter.

Wikstroem is taking the same role for yet another reform of Dublin, which was outlined by the European Commission on 4 May.

“We could find the political will to save our banks from collapse. We can afford to save people from drowning in the Mediterranean and give them a dignified reception when seeking asylum in the EU,” she told EUobserver in an interview."

Greece / Migrant crisis: UN expert launches follow-up visit to assess impact on human rights (UN Human Rights, link): "The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, will visit Greece from 12 to 16 May 2016 to gather information on the complex management of the Greek border, and its impact on the human rights of migrants.

“In 2015, over one million migrants arrived in Greece; its proximity to Turkey makes it a key point of entry for many migrants seeking to reach Europe,” Mr. Crépeau said. “This visit will allow me to follow up on my 2013 and 2015 reports* on the management of the external borders of the European Union, which took me to Tunisia, Turkey, Italy, Greece, Malta and the EU institutions in Brussels and Vienna.”

“Territorial sovereignty is about controlling the border, knowing who comes in and who leaves. It has never been about sealing the border to migration,” the expert reiterated. “Democratic borders are porous by nature. Providing migrants and asylum seekers with legal and safe mobility solutions will ensure such a control.”"

GREECE: On the search for our human rights - 3 people attempt to swim FROM Greece (RefuAid, link): "Yesterday 3 people were forced to flee, not because of mass human rights violations taking place in Turkey, not because of the savage and unrelenting war in Syria, not due to torture but following all of this, as human beings they had been subject to starvation, neglect and abuse… in Europe... at the hands of European governments. They risked their lives for safety and found none, how can we preach morality across the globe yet neglect our brothers and sisters in need in our backyard.

3 people chose to attempt to swim from the Greek island of Chios BACK to the Middle East, desperate to flee the inhumane conditions inflicted on them in the ‘hotspots’. Desperate for food, shelter and water."

Italy breaks up people-smuggling ring that imprisoned migrants (Midnimo, link): "Italian police arrested seven people on Wednesday for running a people-smuggling ring in which Somali boat migrants who reached Italy by boat were held prisoner until their families paid their passage further north, a statement said.

A court in Catania in eastern Sicily ordered that 13 people be detained for running the smuggling operation, but only seven were picked up. The others were thought to be living abroad."

SPAIN: Interior ministry awards medals to eight Guardia Civil officers acquitted of maltreating a migrant in Melilla [ Interior condecora a los ocho guardias civiles absueltos por maltrato a un inmigrante en Melilla] (El Diario, link)

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (12.5.16) Draft Council conclusions call on Member States to "reduce administrive burdens" that hinder expulsion of third-country nationals

Draft Council conclusions call on Member States to "reduce administrive burdens" that hinder expulsion of third-country nationals

EU Member States will be "invited" to ease the expulsion of expelling "illegally staying third-country nationals" by reducing "administrative burdens" - such as "the suspensive effect of return and asylum decisions" and "multiple and last minute asylum applications and appeals" - if a set of draft conclusions being prepared for the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting on 20 May remain in their current form.

Schengen: Greece and Slovenia unhappy with continuation of internal border controls

The Council of the EU has today (12 May 2016) adopted a decision that permits the continuation of the internal border controls adopted by Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Greece and Slovenia have submitted statements disagreeing with the decision.

European Parliament study: On the frontline: the hotspot approach to managing migration (pdf): "This study, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs at the request of the LIBE Committee, places the new “hotspot approach” to managing migration within its policy framework. It examines the way in which EU agencies provide support to frontline Member States, with particular focus on Greece, and assesses the chief challenges identified to date in both the policy design and operational implementation of hotspots."

EU: European Investment Bank: Migration and the EU: Challenges, opportunities, the role of EIB (pdf): "This paper examines what the EIB is already doing in the EU and outside Europe - and what, in partnership with others, we might do to move from humanitarian assistance to economic development, for example through support of the private sector. But unlocking and managing the potential of migration will require a much more coordinated policy response from EU governments. The European Commission has put important building blocks in place, but we still lack a sustainable and coordinated system of migration management that also has Europe’s labour market in mind, the potential for brain-drain as well as the need to provide a humanitarian as well as an economic response."

New report on Greece and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”: action needed to improve living conditions for migrants and refugees and to protect unaccompanied children (Council of Europe, link): "Strasbourg, 11.05.2016 - A new report addressing the situation of refugees and migrants in Greece and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” was published today by Tomáš Bocek, the Special Representative on Migration and Refugees of the Council of Europe’s Secretary General. The report is based on his fact-finding mission to the two countries from 7 to 11 March.

The Special Representative visited a shelter for unaccompanied children in Athens, a “hotspot” and reception centre on the island of Chios and camps in both countries. Some of the camps were seriously overcrowded following the build-up of refugees and migrants as a result of the closure of the western Balkan route, which occurred shortly before his visit. In these camps, living conditions were extreme and only basic needs were being catered for. The report calls for the Council of Europe to mobilise resources to enable the necessary additional capacity to be built to house migrants and refugees in decent living conditions in both countries.

An important issue addressed in the report is the treatment of refugee and migrant children, especially unaccompanied minors, in Greece. The report calls for alternatives to detention for children who are often detained while their asylum claims are being processed or on their way to shelters. It also draws attention to the importance of making some provision for education in the camps and the need to strengthen the Greek child-protection system to protect refugee and migrant children from exploitation.

The Special Representative welcomed the generally supportive response of local populations in Greece to the rising number of new arrivals and underlined the need for integration policies focusing on the fight against intolerance and discrimination.

Finally, the Special Representative was concerned at reports of push-backs and allegations of ill-treatment by those guarding the border of "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia". He recommended human rights training for all relevant personnel."

Report: Report of the fact-finding mission by Ambassador Tomáš Bocek Special Representative of the Secretary General on migration and refugees to Greece and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” 7-11 March 2016 (pdf) and on the Council of Europe website (link).

EU-AFGHANISTAN: Foreign Affairs council may discuss controversial Afghan repatriation plan (EurActiv, link): "Development ministers meeting in Brussels on Thursday (12 May) may discuss a controversial proposal to repatriate some 80,000 Afghans to their homeland, it emerged Tuesday (10 May).

The scheme – first disclosed by EurActiv.com last month – came in the form of a secret Commission proposal to declare the Hindu Kush a “safe region”, and thus return tens of thousands of Afghans in order to deter further migration flows from the war-torn state.

On Thursday, Afghan Finance Minister Eklil Ahmad Hakimi will join development ministers and EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini for lunch, as part of the day’s agenda discussing Afghanistan, migration and development.

A senior EU official told EurActiv.com that the issue of return of Afghan refugees to Hindu Kush “may be raised – one way of the other” over the lunch."

See: the European Commission-European External Action Service (EEAS) document (published by Statewatch in March): Joint Commission-EEAS non-paper on enhancing cooperation on migration, mobility and readmission with Afghanistan - Country Fiche proposing possible leverages across Commission-EEAS policy areas to enhance returns and effectively implement readmission commitments (6738/16, 3 March 2016, pdf)

And see: Europe sees rise in unaccompanied minors seeking asylum, with almost half from Afghanistan (Pew Research, link)

Irregularly present migrants: “firewalls” needed to prevent denying human rights through sharing personal data (European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, link): "To prevent state and private sector actors from effectively denying migrants’ human rights, social services providers must be prohibited from sharing the personal data of irregularly present migrants with immigration authorities, says the Council of Europe’s anti-discrimination body in the new set of policy recommendations to European governments issued today.

With these recommendations, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) seeks to support states in addressing a pressing issue of discrimination against individuals – women, men and children - who do not, or no longer, fulfil the conditions under national law for entry or stay in a member State of the Council of Europe.

“All migrants, including those who are irregularly present, have fundamental human rights which must be guaranteed in law and practice, without discrimination, while these people are within the jurisdiction of member States,” said the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland. “People should be treated as human beings regardless of their legal status.” "

ECRI General Policy Recommendation No. 16: On safeguarding irregularly present migrants from discrimination (adopted 16 March 2016, pdf): "For the purposes of this General Policy Recommendation (GPR) “irregularly present migrants” should be understood as individuals – women, men and children - present in a member State that is not their country of origin, who do not, or no longer, fulfil the conditions under national law for entry or stay in that member State.

The purpose of the GPR is to address a pressing issue of discrimination which is causing grievous hardship to a substantial number of migrants who are irregularly present in member States. It deals exclusively with the question of ensuring access by all persons in this particularly vulnerable group to those human rights which are guaranteed to them in international human rights instruments, in particular as concerns education, health care, housing, social security and assistance, labour protection and justice, while they are within the jurisdiction of a member State."

EU-TURKEY: Commission confirms high level EU – Turkey visa liberalization talks postponement (New Europe, link): "The European Commission confirmed the postponement of a high level dialogue meeting on EU – Turkey for the assessment with visa liberalization, while Erdogan denies reform in anti-terror law.

The meeting that was rescheduled to a later date, was to take place on Friday. “The decision to reschedule the meeting was common,” added the Commission. Attempting to link the postponement of the visa accession meeting, with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s decision to quit, after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s pressure.“Those who criticise us are reduced to sidelining democracy and freedoms when bombs started to explode on their soil,” Erdogan said in last Saturday’s speech in the southeastern city of Malatya, referring to Turkey’s anti-terror reform."

See also: Erdogan says he wants visa waiver by October (EurActiv, link): "Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday (10 May) that he wanted the European Union to grant Turks visa-free travel to the passport-free Schengen area by October at the latest. The previous deadline, also cited by the Commission, was the end of June."

And: Turkey repeats threat to flood Europe with refugees (EurActiv, link): "The threat is not new, but this time it’s addressed to the European Parliament which made it clear that Turkey should not expect a visa waiver if it has not fulfilled all the requirements for the visa liberalisation deal."

1,700 years ago, the mismanagement of a migrant crisis cost Rome its empire (Quartz, link): "The trust between the abused Goths and the Romans was broken several times before Adrianople, and the Goths went from wanting to become Roman to wanting to destroy Rome.

Less than two years later, Marcellinus writes, “with rage flashing in their eyes, the barbarians pursued our men.” And they took down the empire.

The migrants trying to get to Europe right now are not about to rise up in arms, and Europe is not—thankfully—the Roman empire. But this story shows well that migration has always and will always be a part of our world. There are two ways to deal with refugees: one is to promote dialogue, and inclusion; the other is to be unwelcoming and uncaring. The second has led to disaster before—and in one way or another, is sure to do so again."

Mapped: The countries that host the most refugees (Quartz, link): "Despite the recent attention to refugees in Europe, Western countries play a relatively small part in refugee asylum. The largest refugee camps in the world are, as they have been for decades, in Africa and the Middle East, and the first exception, in terms of size, is Mae La, in Thailand (hosting nearly 50,000 refugees from Burma), and then Suruç, in Turkey. By comparison, the camps of Idomeni, in Greece, arguably Europe’s largest, hosts 13,000 people, and Calais, in France, known as “The Jungle,” houses 4,500."

News (12.5.16)

EU: World Humanitarian Summit: GUE/NGL MEP skeptical about the real outcome (press release, link): "Responding to Commission and Council statements on the "Preparation of the World Humanitarian Summit", Spanish MEP, Miguel Urbán Crespo, highlighted the inconsistency of the European Union's policies on the refugee crisis.

"Unfortunately, humanitarian crises are becoming more frequent. The causes are not just climate change and natural disasters, but often armed conflicts created by economic interests," he said.

Urbán Crespo continued: "The causes also include political decisions, such as closing borders to thousands of refugees. This policy has generated the first humanitarian crisis in the territory of the European Union."

"What good are vague commitments to humanitarian aid when policies are deepening humanitarian crises?" he asked."

EU-TURKEY: Verhofstadt outlines new plans for Syrian refugees in Turkey (The Parliament, link): "Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, the Belgian MEP outlined a dramatic two-pronged plan designed to help relieve the suffering of up to two million mostly Syrian refugees.

This includes vastly increasing financial assistance to refugees trapped in camps in Turkey.

Under his plan, the monthly amount would increase from about €7 per refugee to €80.

This would come from the €3bn pledged by the EU as part of its response to the crisis.

Another key plank of Verhofstadt's proposal is the creation of a rapid reaction force, comprising up to 2000 civil servants and agents, who would be despatched to refugee hotspots at short notice."

TURKEY: Syrian refugee children forced into factory work in Turkey (CBS News, link): "In a textile factory in Istanbul, workers toil over sewing machines. But look closely, because the workers are children.

Filming with a hidden camera, we found scores of factories using child labor in Turkey. Most, perhaps all, of the children are from Syria.

Some told us they were as young as 11 -- refugees from a war now easily exploited.

A Turkish worker on the minimum wage earns around $450 a month. A Syrian child, working 12 hours a day, earns as little as $160."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (11.5.16)
'Risks of inaction are considerable', says Ban, urging new compact on refugees and migrants
(UN, link): " Despite bold efforts, responses to the large movements of refugees and migrants – which will continue or possibly increase due to such issues as conflict, poverty and disasters – have been largely inadequate, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today in a new report, calling for the adoption of a global compact on responsibility-sharing that collectively ensures the human rights, safety and dignity of all refugees and migrants.

“Away from the daily headlines and stark images, strains are quietly accumulating on refugees and migrants, as well as on countries and communities that receive them, sometimes for many years,” Mr. Ban stressed in his report to the UN General Assembly, entitled In safety and dignity: addressing large movements of refugees and migrants.

“If one lesson can be drawn from the past few years, it is that individual countries cannot solve these issues on their own. International cooperation and action to address large movements of refugees and migrants must be strengthened,” he added.

Any approach should uphold the safety and dignity in large movements of both refugees and migrants, Mr. Ban said, urging Member States to, among other things, address the root causes of such movements, protect people en route and at borders, and prevent discrimination and promote inclusion."

Full report: Report of the Secretary-General: In safety and dignity: addressing large movements of refugees and migrants (pdf)

EU-Turkey deal not binding, says EP legal chief (EUobserver, link): "The legal arm of the European Parliament on Monday (9 May) spoke out against the EU deal with Turkey.

It noted the statement between the two on 18 March is nothing more than a press release, which has no legal bearing.

"This statement was nothing more than a press communique," the parliament lawyer told MEPs in the civil liberties committee.

"This statement is not a binding agreement."

He noted the statement came without any signatures and was not published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

"It is very difficult to conclude that both the European Union and Turkey wanted to be legally bound under international law by this declaration," he said."

And see: Is the EU-Turkey refugee and migration deal a treaty? (EU Law Analysis, link)

EU-TURKEY: Visa liberalisation for Turkey: EU critieria must be met, say MEPs (press release, pdf): "The EU should make sure that all its requirements are met before granting Turkey visa-free access to the Schengen area, stressed Civil Liberties Committee MEPs in a debate with the EU Commission on Monday. Most MEPs criticised the Commission for proposing a visa waiver for Turkish nationals even though the country has not yet fulfilled all the criteria. Turkey should not be discriminated, but neither should it receive preferential treatment, they agreed."

And see: EP stops work on Turkey visa waiver (EUobserver, link): "MEPs have stopped work on plans to give Turks visa-free access to the EU’s Schengen zone, putting a wider migrant deal in doubt.

Group leaders in the European Parliament's “conference of presidents” quietly suspended work on the file last Wednesday. Some of the lead MEPs on the dossier, the group coordinators in the civil liberties committee (LIBE), found out about the suspension on Monday (9 May).

"They [EP group leaders] decided to stop the whole thing," the German centre-left coordinator Birgit Sippel told this website on Tuesday.

Judith Sargentini, a Dutch Green MEP, said EU parliament chief Martin Schulz suspended it because Turkey had not yet met all EU visa-free criteria.

“Schulz said we will only start processing the file when the 72 criteria have been met,” she said."

Hungary imposes strict measures on refugees after border shooting (Vatican Radio, link): "Hungary's Parliament has adopted strict new measures towards asylum seekers and also approved a government referendum on whether to accept a European Union quota plan to distribute as many as 160.000 refugees among member states. The vote came amid rising tensions in the region after Slovak border guards shot at refugees near the Hungarian border.

Hungarian legislators approved tougher conditions for asylum seekers, including cutting allowed stays at reception centers from 60 days to maximum 30 days and gradually reducing their already meager social benefits and subsidies.

Human rights activists condemned the measures saying they are meant to discourage refugees from seeking asylum in Hungary and forcing them into increasingly worse and unpleasant situations.

Hungarian authorities have acknowledged that only 197 people were granted asylum or some other sort of international protection this year in the January-April period."

And: Parliaments votes to cut benefits for migrants and to issue residence permits more easily (Politics.hu, link)

See also: Hungarian parliament backs referendum challenging EU refugee quotas (Europe Online, link) and Hungary to hold anti-migrant referendum (Hungarian Free Press, link)

News (11.5.16)

Creating 'security' for Europe's new child arrivals (Christian Science Monitor, link): "It is a symbol of desperation and, they hope, of a better life to come. On the Greek island of Lesbos, which half a million refugees passed through last year, the local garbage dump has turned into a burnt-orange mountain of life jackets.

Many of them are baby-sized, some bearing the words, “Not for use in boating.” An inner tube marked with the characters from “Toy Story” lies on one of the piles. The life jackets are refuse left behind by the interminable waves of refugees from Syria and other countries making the journey across the eastern Mediterranean in their quest to push deeper into Europe.

As Sweden, Germany, and other destination countries face the daunting task of integrating new refugee children, many other minors are just starting to come, in a flow of humanity that is unprecedented in scale and whose members often fall victim to the perils of the pilgrimage. Indeed, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says that on average two children have died per day since September trying to cross the Mediterranean."

DENMARK: Police Rescue Migrants From Icy Danish Waters (NDTV, link): " Two migrants were in hospital after authorities rescued them from icy waters off Denmark as they tried to reach Sweden to ask for asylum, Danish police said today.

They were part of a group of four men who attempted to cross on Monday the strait between Denmark and Sweden, where the water is around eight degrees Celsius (46 degrees Fahrenheit).

"There were two who were taken to hospital after the rescue operation," police spokesman Henrik Svejstrup told local Danish broadcaster TV 2 Lorry.

"One was put on a respirator, but we expect him to be taken out of the coma" later today, he added."

Turkey readmitted 386 irregular migrants since March 20: Foreign Ministry (Hurriyet, link): "In line with a March deal with the European Union, almost 400 illegal immigrants have been readmitted to Turkey so far, the spokesperson for the Turkish Foreign Ministry has announced, noting that 125 Syrians have been resettled in five EU countries under the same deal.

“Within the framework of the agreement with the EU, 386 irregular migrants have been readmitted to Turkey from five Greek islands. Of those, 14 of them were Syrians and a vast majority was other countries’ citizens,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Tanju Bilgiç told reporters at a press conference on May 9."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (10.5.16)
EU: What Merkel, Tusk and Timmermans should have seen during their visit to Turkey: Report from GUE/NGL Delegation to Turkey, May 2-4, 2016 (pdf):

"The key findings of the delegation are:

1. People deported from Greece have, until now, had no opportunity to ask for asylum, neither in Greece nor in Turkey;

2. Detention under a prison-style regime including for children;

3. Documented push-backs to Turkey by Bulgarian and Greek police forces;

4. Horrifying testimonials from refugees as a result of the closure of the Turkish-Syrian border.

See also: Non-Syrians denied asylum claims under EU-Turkey deal - MEPs (Guardian, link): "Politicians say interviews with refugees reveal they were not given chance to ask for asylum in Greece or Turkey. Hundreds of non-Syrian asylum seekers deported under the EU-Turkey migration deal were not allowed to claim asylum in either Greece or Turkey, a group of European politicians has claimed.... “All refugees interviewed told us they were not given the opportunity to ask for asylum, neither in Greece nor in Turkey,” Cornelia Ernst, Marina Albiol and Josu Juaristi said in a report released to journalists after they visited two detention centres in northern Turkey. “All said they did not know what will happen to them, and had received no information since they had arrived in Turkey.”

Buried without a name - The untold story of Europe's drowned migrants (BBC News, link)

"More than 1,250 unnamed men, women and children have been buried in unmarked graves in 70 sites in Turkey, Greece and Italy since 2014, a BBC investigation has found. The majority died trying to cross the Mediterranean to seek a new life in Europe. "

Greek ‘Plan B’ reported, if EU-Turkey deal collapses (euractiv, link):

"A German tabloid reported yesterday (9 May) that the EU was considering giving the billions it promised to Turkey to Greece instead, in case the deal agreed with Ankara to stem the refugee flows collapses.

On Monday, Bild reported that several Greek islands in the Aegean are being turned into central registration sites for stranded refugees, and that ships will no longer take refugees to the Greek mainland in order to stop the uncontrolled flow of migrants into the EU.

In other words, asylum seekers will be kept on the islands; those refused asylum would then be deported directly to their home countries. The €6 billion in aid promised to Turkey would be transferred to Athens instead.

The paper reported that several EU states are considering this alternative plan in the event that the EU’s refugee deal with Ankara collapses. The story included statements from unnamed high-ranking politicians. Bild is known for having excellent contacts within the German government....

the EU may be unable to move forward with the promise to offer visa-free travel to the Turks by the end of June. On 7 May, Erdogan made it clear Turkey will not change its anti-terror law, which is one of the conditions for the EU to lift the visa barrier."

Europe to Turkey: We won’t be bullied on refugees - Europe needs Erdogan’s help — but Turkey wants an EU visa waiver and its financial aid. (Poltico,link):

"European officials have argued the imperative of the EU’s refugee deal with Turkey to a skeptical public for weeks, insisting there was simply no viable alternative to the controversial pact....

As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hinted in recent days he may just let the whole arrangement collapse, a step that could again send refugees streaming across the Aegean, Europe has quietly begun preparing a Plan B...

The EU’s contingency plan, described by senior diplomats, envisions turning Greece into what European leaders from Angela Merkel on down have vowed to avoid: a giant refugee camp."

Statewatch:comment: And the same could happen to Italy

Médecins Sans Frontières financial independence makes organisation more flexible, its general director tells ANA-MPA (link):

"The financial independence of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which is a basic principle of the organization, ensures the immediate and effective assistance to people in need," its general director Marietta Provopoulos said in an interview with ANA-MPA on Monday.

"Our choice to refuse state funding makes the organization more flexible and ready to go where it is needed," she added."

Turkey’s EU minister heads to Strasbourg for thorny visa talks with EP (hurriyetdailynews.com, link): "Turkey’s EU minister has embarked on an intense lobbying visit to Strasbourg and Brussels, as the European Parliament’s plenary is scheduled on May 11 to debate last week’s proposal by the EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, to lift visa requirements for Turkish citizens."

Turkey: Border Guards Kill and Injure Asylum Seekers - Border Lock-Down Puts Syrian Lives at Risk (HRW, link):

"(Istanbul) – Turkish border guards are shooting and beating Syrian asylum seekers trying to reach Turkey, resulting in deaths and serious injuries, Human Rights Watch said today. The Turkish authorities should stop pushing Syrian asylum seekers back at the border and should investigate all use of excessive force by border guards....

“While senior Turkish officials claim they are welcoming Syrian refugees with open borders and open arms, their border guards are killing and beating them,” said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Firing at traumatized men, women, and children fleeing fighting and indiscriminate warfare is truly appalling.”"

UNHCR Daily Report (9.5.16)

"On 5 May, Bulgaria and Turkey signed a “Protocol for the Implementation of the Agreement between the Republic of Turkey and the European Union on the Readmission of Persons Residing without Authorisation”.

Are You Syrious (9.5.16, link)

New arrivals on Greek islands.

"The number of refugees in Greece today is 54,341 with 8,352 in the islands, 14,438 in the Atika region, 1,915 in central Greece, 338 in southern Greece and 29,298 in the northern region. There were 74 new arrivals today with 37 in Lesvos and 37 in Leros."

Protests continue on Leros

"As UNHCR reports, on the island of Leros, tension and protests occurred during the last days at the hotspot / registration and identification center. Demonstration began on Wednesday, 3 May, and continued in the following days, when detained refugees and migrants protested against general living conditions. In addition, members of the local community gathered outside the center to express their anger to the Mayor. Authorities guaranteed improvement regarding food provision, and announced that those detained for 25 days will then be able to move freely on the island."

Hunger strike in Elliniko camp

"Unfortunately, the news from the mainland is not looking good, either. As reported from the #Elliniko camp in Athens, refugees started a hunger strike today: Volunteers report that people “are desperate, and this is the only way they can speak out. They say that they will leave the camp, if things won’t change.” They are asking for their voice to be heard and to be treated like human beings by closed off Europe."

HUNGARY: Hundreds of new asylum seekers reported to have arrived in Hungary during last week with 572 people apprehended for illegal border crossing

"As UNHCR reports around 800 asylum-seekers and migrants were reported to have arrived in Hungary last week. Police reported 572 individuals were apprehended after irregular entry while UNHCR observed 265 people who approached the transit zones in Roszke and Tompa. With the limited daily admission capacity (30 per zone per day) at these locations, around 200 people are waiting outside the fence without shelter, sanitation and hygiene facilities, and are exposed to protection and health risks. UNHCR is present daily in the transit zones to monitor the admission process, coordinate with UNHCR Serbia to identify people with specific needs. On the Hungarian side of the border, access to the transit zones remains limited for other organizations."

GERMANY: Useful app for asylum seekers in Germany

"There is a useful tool for asylum seekers in Germany?—?it is called Ankommen and it can help with basic information on language, previously established migrant communities, as well aswhere to get some basic necessities near you. The app for iPhones can be downloaded here and for Android here

Don’t forget about Calais: People to People Solidarity running out of supplies!

"People to People Solidarity?—?Action from UK needs your help. With the warmer weather, more refugees are making their way to Calais and Dunkirk while the volunteers are running out of supplies. Some volunteers report that every day they have new people coming with absolutely nothing and they have not been able to help them for the last couple of days since they ran out of everything.

They’ve put a list of items to help you all find what is being asked at the moment and where to go for up-to-date information so please see the following link and help if you can: http://bit.ly/1s8uDWK.

News (10.5.16)

Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals in 2016: 187,631; Deaths: 1,357 (IOM, link)

Migrants freed from Greek detention, trapped in limbo on islands (Daily Sabah, link): "Migrants and refugees are being freed from detention centers in Greece but remain trapped on its islands until their asylum requests are processed, exposing them to dire living conditions and even the risk of people smugglers, human rights groups say. At least 1,100 people have been released from centers on three islands and more will follow as their 25-day detention limit expires, police officials said. They are forbidden from travelling to the mainland, where most state-run shelters are."

Czech extremists swap traditional topics for migrant issue (Radio Praha, link): "In its annual report on extremism in the Czech Republic in 2015, the Interior Ministry reports on a slight rise in activities both left and right and a shift from traditional topics to the migrant issue which invariably commands public attention."

Greece: Most migrants in Idomeni have expired papers, says minister (ekathimerini.com, link): "The majority of refugees stranded at the sprawling camp in Idomeni, northern Greece, do not have valid documents as most have expired, according to Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas. “The papers of 70 percent of the people at Idomeni [which they received when they were registered] have already expired,” he said, admitting that if police were to conduct checks on the more than 10,000 migrants at the camp many could be arrested as illegal migrants. “What we are saying is that if they are moved to other camps around the country their documents will be automatically validated and renewed,” he said.

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (9.5.16)
Reports: Syrian woman shot at the Hungarian-Slovakian border

Via the Migreurop (link) mailing list, 9.5.16: "According to Hungarian language news sources (link), a 26-year old Syrian woman was shot this morning on the Hungarian-Slovakian border by the Slovakian authorities.

A 26-year-old Syrian was shot this morning on the Slovakian-Hungarian border. She was being smuggled in a car through the Vamosszabadi-Medve crossing. Vamosszabadi is also the location of one of the three open refugee camps in Hungary.

There were four cars, and close to Nagymegyer the Slovak customs authorities decided to stop the cars. Three of them stopped, and it turned out that they are carrying “illegal immigrants” (wording by the Slovak authorities). The driver of the fourth car decided not to stop and speeded instead. The customs authorities reacted with warning shots in the air, but when the driver did not care they shot at the car. The woman in the car was hit as well, and an ambulance had to be called. She was shot in the back and brought to the Dunajská Streda-hospital and operated, and now her situation is stable. All the people who were being transported have been handed over to the Ministry of the Interior.

At the same time, there is a huge traffic jam on the Hungarian-Austrian border as cars are being checked."

EU: New asylum proposals: reaction and analysis

EU proposes Minority Report-style facial recognition for refugees (EurActiv, link): "The EU is planning wholesale changes to the bloc’s asylum law. In addition to a “fairer” distribution system for refugees and an extension of border controls within the Schengen area, the Eurodac fingerprint database, which is currently used to identify asylum seekers and irregular migrants, is to be enlarged.

The system is set to be supplemented with facial recognition software and personal data will be stored for a longer period of time, with the aim of ensuring that irregular migrants stay on the authorities’ radar; the information of underage refugees will also be kept. The upgrade will cost some €30 million."

Association Européenne pour la défense des Droits de l’Homme: Coercion and exclusion do not make an equitable asylum policy! The Commission’s «propositions» for a reform of asylum are either unacceptable or unrealistic (press release, pdf): "For the second time in less than a year, the European Commission has presented a “plan” bringing forward reform propositions to solve the European Asylum and Migration crisis.

In a note published today, AEDH observes that the European Commission is offering to organise the regression of the rights of asylum seekers and refugees, in a bid to seek the support of Member States and stem the flow of people entering the European territory with the hope of finding protection there.

How far will the European Union go in denying its fundamental values and its history?"

See the English summary of AEDH's analysis (link).

And: Commission Proposals for tougher Dublin system, more data collection under Eurodac and the birth of a new Asylum Agency

"The proposed reform of the Dublin Regulation will not revisit the responsibility criteria of the current mechanism, which in the majority of cases lead to Member States of first entry being designated as responsible for asylum seekers. The weight placed on the irregular entry criterion could be further exacerbated given that the 12-month time-limit, after which the responsibility of the country of entry ceases under the current rules, is to be removed. The proposal includes a “corrective fairness mechanism” of relocation, to be triggered in Member States facing particular pressure, similar to a reform proposed last September. Under that mechanism, asylum seekers will be subject to a relocation scheme from the country in question only after their claim has been deemed admissible, namely after the potential applicability of the “safe third country” concept has been ruled out in their case. Member States refusing to relocate asylum seekers will have to pay 250,000€ per person to the country in which he or she is relocated."

The proposal for new Eurodac legislation, along with the Commission's other proposals, can be seen here: EU opens door to visa waiver as part of legally "dodgy deal" with Turkey and plans Dublin III

See also: The Orbanisation of EU asylum law: the latest EU asylum proposals (EU Law Analysis, link)

Map: Refugee camps in Northern Greece (link): lists 19 different sites on the Greek mainland.

News (9.5.16)

FRANCE: Calais : un migrant pakistanais meurt percuté par une voiture sur la rocade portuaire [A Pakistani migrant dies after being hit by a car on the port bypass] (La Voix du Nord, link)

GREECE: Europe Day: 100 Refugees Tour Acropolis With Greek Minister (Greek Reporter, link): "Greek Culture Minister Aristidis Baltas will guide a hundred refugees around the ancient site of the Acropolis. The refugees – mainly families from hospitality centers of Eleonas, Athens center, and Schistos, Piraeus – will be the minister’s guests in the framework of events celebrating Europe Day (May 9)."

GREECE: Coast guard officers save 74 migrants of Lesvos, Farmakonisi (Ekathimerini, link): "Greek Coast Guard officers saved a total of 74 migrants off the islands of Lesvos and Farmakonisi over the past three days as the influx of people from neighboring Turkey ebbs.

The rescue efforts were relatively unhindered as weather conditons have been good."

MOROCCO-SPAIN: Marruecos blinda la playa de Beliones con vallas metálicas y efectivos de las Fuerzas Auxiliares [Morocco shields the Beliones beach with metal fences and troops from the Auxiliary Forces] (ceutaactualidad.com, link): "The collaboration between Spain and Morocco to halt the entry of migrants onto Spanish national territory has led the Auxiliary Forces of the neighbouring country to shield, with metal fences and barbed wire, the entire beach of Beliones."

NETHERLANDS: Former refugee boats now sail on calmer waters in Amsterdam (Dutch News, link): "A cruise around Amsterdam’s canals is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Graham Dockery took a different sort of tour of the city’s waterways, on a boat which had carried asylum seekers to Sicily."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (7-8.5.16)

President Erdogan tells EU: “We’re going our way, you go yours” – Bye, Bye to EU Turkey Deal (Keep Talking Greece, link):

"Turkish president President Tayyip Erdogan told the European Union on Friday that Turkey would not make changes to its terrorism laws required under a deal to curb migration, and declared: “we’re going our way, you go yours”.

His fiery speech will be a blow to any hope in European capitals that it might be business as usual with Turkey after Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who negotiated the migration deal with Europe and had largely delivered on Turkey’s commitments so far, announced he was standing down.

The EU asked member states on Wednesday to grant visa-free travel to Turks in return for Ankara stopping migrants reaching Europe, but said Turkey still had to change some legislation, including bringing its terrorism laws in line with EU standards..."

Austria: Tear gas used at Brenner Pass protest against Austria migration policy (DW, link): "Dozens of protesters have thrown bricks and firecrackers at a police blockade, with officers using tear gas in response. Austria's plans to tighten border controls have angered many Italians."

Are You Syrious (link)

53,652 refugees are in Greece today, with 44 new arrivals to the islands

"Government statistics report a total of 53,652 refugees across the country today as of 8AM, lower than yesterday’s total of 53,901. The government reports 7,703 people at the islands, with 15 new arrivals — 14 at Samos and 1 at Chios. By 5PM today, volunteers at Lesvos reported the arrival of one boat with 29 people, which landed in the North of the island while no information is available for the South.

The greatest number of people is at the mainland—14,389 in Attiki (out of this, 2135 in the Port of Piraeus and 2880 in Skaramagas Dock), 1,954 in the Central, 338 in the Southern and 29,268 in the Northern Greece. 10,028 refugees are still in Idomeni camp."

Refugees of Viale Camp are on a hunger strike after being detained for over a month

"Refugees started a hunger strike four days ago in Viale, at Chios?—?after 47 days in Viale (from March 20) there is a little attention given to them and they have no information about what will happen to them. In order to remain visible, they started a hunger strike, and some of the people have sewn their mouths shut. (Source: Aplotaria.gr)"

ITALY: Refugees protest at Lampedusa being held for months

"“Take us away from this prison” — Migrants were protesting in the streets of Lampedusa island yesterday asking to leave the island, where they have been held for months and where more than 70 migrants have been on a hunger and thirst strike against the identification and hotspot system. Another 400 people have landed on the island in the last 24 hours. (Source: La Repubblica)"

Refugees forced to sleep on the street in Pordenone as a result of slow accommodation

According to Messaggero Veneto, the situation could be soon become critical for refugees and migrants in Pordenone, the city in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, the Italian region "at the border with Austria and Slovenia. The funds available for the Pordenone province to host refugees in 2016 are sufficient for 800 people, while according to the data by the local Nuovi Vicini organization, the number of people has already reached 770 and it is constantly growing."

Excellent summary from MSF: EU Migration Crisis Update - May 2016 (link):

"Todays’ humanitarian crisis in Europe in regards to migrants and refugees is a result of a collective catastrophically failure to respond to the urgent need for assistance and protection of over a million men, women and children. The policies and actions of European governments actively contributed to the worsening of the so-called “refugee crisis” and the health and well-being of those who fled. The lack of safe and legal options for people to flee, the razor wire fences, capriciously closed borders, squalid, inhumane reception conditions and the complicated, ever changing registration procedures aggravated the already miserable conditions imposed on thousands fleeing war, poverty and oppression, serving only to make fleeing more dangerous and increasing the suffering of those on the move."

The Orbanisation of EU asylum law: the latest EU asylum proposals (EU Law Analysis, link):

"The Commission’s proposals are not a done deal, of course. Some Member States and Members of the European Parliament have misgiving about a visa waiver for Turkey, on migration control or human rights grounds. MEPs fought for years for many of the provisions in the Dublin III Regulation (on family members and unaccompanied minors in particular) which the Commission now seeks to overturn. As I pointed out above, some of the proposed changes to the Dublin rules are highly vulnerable to challenge in the CJEU, if adopted. The red herring of a €250,000 sanction is already floating on the surface of the pond. And the whole EU/Turkey deal might anyway be overturned at the whim of Turkish President Erdogan – the only politician whose ego makes Donald Trump’s look small by comparison."

RUMOUR: Will Afghans Be Stuck In Greece?  (news that moves, link):

“They say Afghans are the third most vulnerable on the list. They will separate Afghans and spread Syrians to other EU countries. Afghans will be stuck here.”

Afghans are one of the major groups of refugees currently in Greece. Afghans are not eligible for relocation in the EU. EASO (European Asylum Support Office), the agency that manages the EU Relocation Program, uses specific criteria for the eligible nationalities and updates the criteria quarterly. Afghans are eligible for Family Reunification, in which case they may be able to live in another EU country. You can apply for family reunification if you have a core family member (spouse or minor child) who has a legal residency permit in another EU country. The process might take some time. For more information: UNHCR: Family Reunification (link)"

Erdogan says Turkey will not change terror laws for EU (aljazeera.com, link):

"Turkish president tells Europe he will not change anti-terror measures in exchange for visa-free travel for Turks in EU. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has rejected easing anti-terror legislation in exchange for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens in the European Union. Erdogan told EU states, "We'll go our way, you go yours," in a statement released on Friday, just a day after the resignation of his Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu."

EU-Turkey visa deal on brink as Erdogan refuses to change terror laws (Guardian, link):

"Refugee pact appears in danger of falling apart as Turkish president tells Europe: ‘We’ll go our way, you go yours’"

When the European commission made a conditional offer of visa-free travel earlier this week, it said Ankara must rewrite its anti-terrorism laws because they were used to prosecute journalists and government critics....

MEP Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the liberal group in the parliament, highlighted anti-terrorist laws, which “have been used in a brutal clampdown” against journalists. “As long as this remains the case, the European parliament should not support this proposal for visa liberalisation,” he said."

UNHCR: Daily Report (6.5.6)

"Last week, temporary border controls at the Hungarian- Austrian border were introduced. The Ministry of Interior also presented details for future border controls and a border management system at the Austrian-Italian crossing where refugees and migrants would be channelled through."

"A total of 1,694 third-country nationals were deported or returned to their countries of origin from Greece in April, under operational planning to combat irregular migration, Greek Police announced on Thursday. The greatest number of returns were to Albania (852), Pakistan (157), Morocco (107), Iran (61), Georgia (51), Afghanistan (45) and Bangladesh (29). A total of 6,427 third-country nationals have been returned to their country of origin since the beginning of the year, Greek Police said." [emphasis added]

Comment: A large number of people are returned by Greece to Albania each year.

Denmark wants to stay out of EU asylum distribution plan (The Local.dk, link): "The Danish government has promised to do everything it can to land an agreement with the EU that would see Denmark escaping a requirement to accept an EU-defined number of asylum seekers, while retaining its right to send asylum seekers back to other EU countries."

Italy-Austria border controls would be 'political catastrophe' (The Local.at, link):

"Austria imposing controls on its border with Italy would be a "political catastrophe" for Europe, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Saturday.

Vienna is threatening to resume checks on the Brenner Pass between the two countries as part of a package of anti-migrant measures if Italy does not do more to reduce the number of new arrivals heading to Austria."

EU ‘sacrifices’ press freedom for Turkish help - Rights groups say migration plan ignores Turkey’s worsening record on human rights (Politico, link):

" It didn’t take long for the platitudes about press freedom to fall foul of the messy political reality of Europe’s migration crisis.

A day after stressing their commitment to free speech to mark World Press Freedom Day, European commissioners were accused of abandoning those principles to win the favor of one of the region’s most repressive autocrats....

The Commission has “abandoned the many journalists, editors and writers in Turkey who face prosecution, imprisonment, harassment and even death for speaking out,” Jo Glanville, director of English PEN, a writers’ association, said.

Not only is the Commission’s pursuit of a deal with Erdogan a betrayal of the Turkish media organizations and journalists that have been victimized by his administration, the critics said, it’s also a signal to other regimes that they can act with impunity against their critics — so long as Brussels needs their support."

News (7-8.5.6)

Bulgaria: Return Migrants to Turkey from June 1 (Balkan Insight, link) "Bulgaria has become the first EU member state to sign a protocol with Ankara to set in place procedures for sending illegal migrants back to Turkey starting from next month."

The refugee children of Idomeni: alone, far from home but clinging to hope (Observer, link): "They have fled their wartorn homelands in Syria and Afghanistan. Now they are stuck in northern Greece – so close to a new life"

German NGO to fund facility for refugees in northern Greece (ekathimerini.com, link): "Plans are afoot for the creation of a new reception center for refugees near Thermi, east of Thessaloniki, funded by a German nongovernmental organization, Kathimerini understands."

Turkey’s visa liberalisation: An insult to the EU’s eastern neighbours (euractiv, link): "While the EU may think that remaining silent on the more challenging issues of the visa liberalisation deal might be a price worth paying for dealing with the refugee crisis, it reflects the bloc’s desperation, writes Igor Merheim-Eyre."

Austrian mosque under construction vandalized with pig heads, blood (dailysabah.com/europe, link)

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (6.5.16)

Bulgaria to Return Migrants to Turkey from June 1 (Balkan Insight, link): "Bulgaria will be able to send back migrants who have crossed its border with Turkey illegally from June 1, according to the protocol signed between Sofia and Ankara on Thursday.

The country is the first among EU member states to sign the protocol, which sets procedures for sending refugees back to Turkey.

“The most important thing is that we are sending a very strong signal to the traffickers and the refugees who plan to cross the Bulgarian-Turkish border,” Bulgarian interior minister Rumyana Rachvarova said in Ankara."

EU: Commission statistics on the refugee crisis: updated 6.5.16

The latest statistics on hotspots in Italy and Greece; relocation; returns; civil protection support for Croatia, Greece and Serbia; and Member States' financial pledges.

Overview: Turkey meets 65 of 72 requirements for visa liberalisation (pdf):

"On 4 May the Commission published the ‘Third Report on progress by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalisation roadmap’. The “roadmap” has 72 requirements grouped under five headings. Here we provide an overview of the requirements and information on whether or not they have been fulfilled, as set out in the working document that accompanied the Commission’s communication.

The working document provides more detail on what Turkey has done with regard to each of the individual requirements. It also contains an 11-page annex setting out an ‘assessment of the security impact of visa liberalisation’."

See also: Commission Staff Working Document accompanying the Third Report on progress made by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalisation roadmap (SWD(2016) 161 final, pdf): Detailed overview of the 72 requirements and progress made.

Further documentation: EU opens door to visa waiver as part of legally "dodgy deal" with Turkey and plans Dublin III

Trapped in the new Greek archipelago with no way out (OpenDemocracy, link): "‘It’s all lies,’ Massoud (not his real name) taps angrily on his smartphone screen; there are dozens of failed calls to the Skype address of the Greek Asylum service. In Greece you register an asylum claim by Skype. Massoud is from Syria and has been in Idomeni camp for 2 months and 10 days.

People have been blockaded in Greece since Macedonia shut its border with Greece entirely for refugees on 9 March this year. At the same time many people are finding it impossible to lodge asylum applications in Greece - and therefore have no chance of ‘relocation’ to another EU country. The EU plan to relocate refugees to other EU countries appears to be bogged down.

By 17 April, UNHCR said some 46,000 refugees are stranded in Greece in an archipelago of camps from Athens to the Macedonian border in the North. Meanwhile, in the islands the deportations to Turkey under the ‘one-for-one’ deal between the EU and Turkey started on 4 April."

See also: Migration Minister: Greece Will Keep 30,000-40,000 Refugees (Greek Reporter, link): "Greek Deputy Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas said that 30,000-40,000 refugees will stay in Greece for a long time.

Mouzalas headed a meeting on the migration issue in Thessaloniki. He said that the makeshift migrant camp in Idomeni, on the Greek-FYROM border, will be evacuated by May 30."

And: Greece: Police clash with refugees as they clear Idomeni train tracks (Ruptly TV, link to YouTube)

Week April 28th - May 5th 2016 - Hungarian Situation update (Migszol, link): "One of the ways we at MigSzol think we can influence the current situation is through documentation. Many might think that since the events of last year, the situation has calmed down and there is no longer anything happening in Hungary. This is far from the truth. Many people are still passing through Hungary every day and recently the importance of Hungary as a transit country has been increasing again. Every week there are many things happening at both the Serbian and the Austrian borders and the situation is often changing quickly. And even though most of the camps are full (and often overcrowded again), there is very little information about the conditions there available.

MigSzol is in a good position to have access to many sources and other groups who work in the field. We make use of this by documenting the situation in Hungary as often as possible. For this reason, we are starting a situation diary. Every other week, we will publish updates with general information about the situation at the borders and in the camps that we gather from our different sources all over the country. We hope this will provide information to other organizations elsewhere in Europe to keep up to date and serve as a reference for the conditions in Hungary."

Topics covered in the update: A steady number of people are transiting through Hungary every day - Nagyfa closed and new camp opening in Kormend - Hungarian and Serbian border Update - Transit zones

News (6.5.16)

EU: Central European countries resist new E.U. refugee quota proposal (Washington Post, link): "The European Union announced a new plan Wednesday to deal with asylum seekers, requiring member states to accept certain numbers under a quota system and imposing 250,000-euro-per-migrant fines if the countries do not.

The much-anticipated plan is aimed at revamping Europe’s controversial regulations on handling the continent’s migrant crisis as nations struggle to cope with the largest number of displaced people since World War II.

European leaders have been desperately seeking a solution for months. In 2015 alone, more than 1 million people poured into the continent, most fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa."

EU: Merkel warns of return to nationalism unless EU protects borders (EurActiv, link): "German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday (5 May) urged European leaders to protect EU borders or risk a “return to nationalism” as the continent battles its worst migration crisis since World War II.

As Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi kicked off two days of talks in Rome with Merkel and senior EU officials, the German leader said Europe must defend its borders “from the Mediterranean to the North Pole” or suffer the political consequences.

Support for far-right and anti-immigrant parties is on the rise in several countries on the continent, which saw more than a million people arrive on its shores last year."

FM: Cyprus has a lot of scenarios in mind as regards visa liberalization (FG News, link): "The government of Cyprus has many scenarios in mind as regards the issue concerning the liberalization of visa requirements for Turkish nationals to the EU, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ioannis Kasoulides has said.

Kasoulides said that the decision will be taken by the European Council with a qualified majority, adding that Cyprus, in order to protect its national interests, could for example request exemptions, partial or total suspension, or even submit a unilateral declaration.

Kasoulides said that Nicosia will await for the completion of the process of the road map, adding that all 72 benchmarks set out for Turkey must be fulfilled and that `there remain important issues that are necessary"."

GERMANY: 'Quota refugees' from Syria adjust to life in Germany (Deutsche Welle, link): "On the coffee table is a little plate of Syrian cookies. A friend has sent them from home. The television is tuned to a Syrian channel. In front of it, on the sofa, sits Zakiah Bshara (pictured). She left her homeland at the age of 71 and fled with her husband and son to her daughter in Germany. That was almost two years ago. Today, she lives in Kiel."

GREECE: German NGO to fund facility for refugees in northern Greece (Ekathimerini, link): "Plans are afoot for the creation of a new reception center for refugees near Thermi, east of Thessaloniki, funded by a German nongovernmental organization, Kathimerini understands.

Representatives of a large German NGO recently visited Thessaloniki for talks with local officials about creating the center, which would hold up to 1,500 refugees, Kathimerini has learned. The NGO is said to be offering 5 million euros for use by local authorities."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (5.5.16)
MSF to pull out of World Humanitarian Summit (link):

"with regret, we have come to the decision to pull out of the summit. We no longer have any hope that the WHS will address the weaknesses in humanitarian action and emergency response, particularly in conflict areas or epidemic situations. Instead, the WHS’s focus would seem to be an incorporation of humanitarian assistance into a broader development and resilience agenda. Further, the summit neglects to reinforce the obligations of states to uphold and implement the humanitarian and refugee laws which they have signed up to.

As shocking violations of international humanitarian law and refugee rights continue on a daily basis, WHS participants will be pressed to a consensus on non-specific, good intentions to ‘uphold norms’ and ‘end needs’. The summit has become a fig-leaf of good intentions, allowing these systematic violations, by states above all, to be ignored."

EU opens the door to visa waiver as part of legally "dodgy-deal" with Turkey and plans for Dublin III

1. DUBLIN REVISION: Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or a stateless person (recast) (COM 270-16. pdf)

- Questions & Answers: Reforming the Common European Asylum System: Reforming the Dublin system (pdf)

2. EU-Turkey "Statement": Third Report on progress by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalisation roadmap (COM 278-16, pdf). Seven of the 72 requirements to allow visa "liberalisation" to go ahead have not been met. These are pretty fundamental:

- "upgrading the existing biometric passports so as to include security features in line with the latest EU standards;

- fully implementing the provisions of the EU-Turkey readmission agreement, including those related to the readmission of third country nationals."
[emphasis added]

Apparently this is OK because:

"The Commission and the Turkish authorities have agreed on practical ways of implementing these benchmarks before their complete fulfilment." [emphasis added]

Comment: This is a massive Commission "fudge" or put another way, this statement is economical with the truth.

- Commission Staff Working Document accompanying the Third Report on progress made by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalisation roadmap (SWD(2016) 161 final, pdf): Detailed overview of the 72 requirements and progress made.

See also: Overview: Turkey meets 65 of 72 requirements for visa liberalisation (pdf)

- Implementing the EU-Turkey Agreement – Questions and Answers (pdf) Sets out details of action by Turkey, Greece and the EU.

- REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL amending Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement (Turkey) (COM 279, pdf)

- Questions & Answers: Third Report on Progress by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its Visa Liberalisation Roadmap (pdf):

"on 7 and 18 March 2016, meetings of Heads of State or Government of the EU and Turkey took place. The Summit concluded with an EU-Turkey Statement which stipulates that "the fulfilment of the visa liberalisation roadmap will be accelerated vis-à-vis all participating Member States with a view to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by the end of June 2016, provided that all benchmarks have been met."

3. Border controls: Schengen: COUNCIL IMPLEMENTING DECISION setting out a recommendation for temporary internal border control in exceptional circumstances putting the overall functioning of the Schengen area at risk (COM 275, pdf)

- Questions & Answers: A coordinated EU approach for temporary internal border controls (pdf)

4. Eurodac: Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on the establishment of 'Eurodac' for the comparison of fingerprints for the effective application of [Regulation (EU) No 604/2013 establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or a stateless person] , for identifying an illegally staying third-country national or stateless person and on requests for the comparison with Eurodac data by Member States' law enforcement authorities and Europol for law enforcement purposes (recast) (COM 272-16, pdf)

5. EU Agency for Asylum: Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on the European Union Agency for Asylum and repealing Regulation (EU) No 439/2010 (pdf) and Annex (pdf)

CIMADE: France & EU: What are we talking about? (pdf):

"La Cimade issued a press statement on 20 April 2016 in which it announced a suspension of its activities in Rennes detention centre from 18 to 20 April as a result of witnessing a system to deal with the refugee crisis in northern France involving sequences of unlawful practices. Eventually, their unlawfulness is predictably certified by courts or the prefectures which enacted them, but they nonetheless fulfil their purpose, described as removing people from the Calais region and port areas and attempting to dissuade them from returning there. In the meantime, the number unlawful detentions, denials of access to asylum procedures and violations of the rights of minors are rising, and migrants and refugees who are released subsequently return to a state of vagrancy as they await their opportunity to attempt the crossing."

Are You Syrious (4-5-16, link):

Serious concerns about health and protection of refugees

"Lawyers and human rights activists in Izmir express their concern over the protection and health of refugees in Turkey. The president of the NGO Halklarin Korprusu says concerns with human rights are not within the scope of the EU-Turkey deal, while the lawyers in charge of specific asylum cases express their difficulty in meeting with refugees in detention centres."

Strike in Chios

"In Chios, refugees in the Viale detention center sewed their mouths shut and started a hunger strike on Tuesday, to protest living conditions and the indifference of authorities. They protest the lack of attention to people with disabilities in particular."

Police clamping down on volunteers in Athens

"The Iokasti’s Kitchen in Athens will suspend cooking activities until further notice as recent legislation has made it impossible to distribute food in public places?—?police is clamping down on volunteers at Victoria Square and at Piraeus. The Kitchen will continue to provide ingredients to 3 self managed locations, currently cooking 1200 meals a day."

Italy: Volunteers are helping in the sea

"Le Monde reports on the volunteer boat ‘Aquarius’ that has saved 917 migrants in the Mediterranean within two months. It’s funded mostly through crowdfunding and plans to operate between Sicily and Libya over the summer."

European commission faces challenge to grant visa-free travel to Turks (Guardian, link):

"EU executive gives provisional blessing to key scheme in deal with Ankara, as asylum rules overhaul also hits trouble...

In another important caveat, visa-free travel would only be available to those Turks with biometric passports that include fingerprint recognition chips. Such passports do not exist in Turkey, although the government plans to introduce them from 1 June....

The final decision on whether Turkish citizens will get visa-free access to the Schengen Area for stays of up to three months rests with the EU’s 28 member states and the European parliament....

But five conditions still need to be cleared, including passing anti-corruption laws, rewriting domestic law on terrorism to avoid conflicts with freedom of expression, and bringing data protection rules in line with EU standards."

EU-Turkey: Commission admits visa-free travel for Turks depends on national parliaments (euractiv, link):

"The European Commission today (4 May) proposed that Turkish nationals would enjoy visa-free travel to the EU’s Schengen zone by the end of June, praising Ankara for its fast delivery on meeting the necessary conditions. But Commission experts admit that national parliaments could upturn the deal....

In the short time since EU leaders agreed the deal with the Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu last 18 March, Turkey implemented most of the EU benchmarks on the way toward lifting the visa restrictions. The five remaining benchmarks appear to be a formality, listening to EU officials who praised Turkey for an outstanding ability to deliver....

Following the Commission proposal, the decision rests with the Justice and Home Affairs Council who will examine the issue on 19 June and vote by qualified majority.

Paul said she was more concerned about what would happen in the European Parliament, who also need to endorse the decisions. “Some national parliaments also have to ratify it, including the Netherlands”, she said, mentioning Timmermans’ home country. “Let’s hope it gets through, because a lot is at stake”, she added."

EU: Commission approves extending border checks at internal Schengen borders (euractiv, link):

"The European Commission approved today (4 May) extending by six months controls at several frontiers inside the free-travel Schengen area, saying checks were justified by deficiencies in Greece’s management of the bloc’s external border.

Border controls between Schengen countries are usually not allowed, but in a situation of emergency, such as Europe’s migration crisis, checks can be reintroduced for a maximum of two years.oversial Austrian plans to introduce border controls at the Brenner Pass. “There will be no wall,” Austrian interior minister Wolfgang Sobotka said after meeting his Italian counterpart Angelino Alfano on Thursday (29 April). But he added: “If and only if it is necessary will we introduce more controls by slowing traffic and trains ... but circulation will be guaranteed.” The Alpine pass connects the two countries. But Austria is concerned that migrants will turn to Italy as a gateway to Europe after it closed the Western Balkan corridor."

Norwegian Government condemns stateless children to a state of legal limbo (statelessness.eu, link):

"A new proposal by the Norwegian Government will leave children born stateless in Norway who are habitually resident without a nationality until they turn 18. The new proposal, put forward by the Ministry of Justice, clearly violates provisions in international law which safeguard every child’s right to a nationality by stipulating that a 5 year lawful residence is required for acquisition of Norwegian citizenship."

News (5.5.16)

Bulgaria, Croatia announced joint positions in the fields of migration crisis, EU enlargement and Schengen membership (focus-fen.net): "“Coordinated positions of Bulgaria and Croatia and the countries in the region of Central and Eastern Europe are of paramount importance for tackling challenges the EU faces with.” That is what Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov said during a meeting with his Croatian counterpart Dr Miro Kovac, which was held within the two-day official visit of the Bulgarian first diplomat to the Republic of Croatia, the press centre of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced."

Avramopoulos, Schengen isn't dying, we'll revive it (ANSA, link): "BRUSSELS, MAY 3 - "Schengen isn't dying. On the contrary, the EU Commission is doing everything to restore it and go back to normalcy, as indicated by the roadmap 'Back to Schengen'," said EU Migrant and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos in an interview with ANSA. "But to move ahead, intermediate steps are needed. What we want to reach can't happen in one night, that's why we have to ensure a gradual process, even if that means allowing temporary extra checks at internal borders". (ANSAmed)."

Comment: But will it ever be the same again?

Don’t want migrants? Pay for them instead - Planned relocation scheme would have financial penalties for those who don’t join in. (Politico, link): "It’s part of a planned shake-up of the bloc’s asylum rules that aims to ease the pressure on the EU countries at the bloc’s external borders. If the proposal becomes law, the EU country in which migrants first set foot would in principle have to process their asylum claims, but that country would no longer be obliged to host all of the migrants it receives."

EU Commission: Accept asylum-seekers or pay up (DW, link): "EU nations that reject asylum seekers from overburdened frontline states will face a 250,000 euro charge per refugee under a plan unveiled by the European Commission. It's drawn rapid rebuffs from Slovakia and Poland."

EU leaders in Rome to discuss migrant crisis (ekathimerini.com, link): "EU president Donald Tusk travels to Rome Thursday with fellow EU institution leaders and German Chancellor Angela Merkel for two days of talks likely to focus on next steps in Europe’s migrant crisis. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who fears Italy becoming the new migrant frontline after the closure of the Balkan route, will host the first day of talks, followed by Pope Francis on Friday."

Visa deal for Turkey; crisis off for Greece? (Reuters, link): "A revised relocation system to reform the EU's so-called "Dublin" asylum system was proposed Wednesday by the EU's executive. Italy, with tens of thousands of new arrivals, has led the push for a "fairness mechanism" when it comes to dealing with asylum-seekers who enter the 28-member bloc.... The Commission said Wednesday any member state could opt to "temporarily not take part in the reallocation," but must then pay 250,000 euros ($288,000) per asylum seeker."

Denmark extends controls on German border, EU set to authorize more (Reuters, link): "Denmark extended temporary controls at its border with Germany on Monday, imposed to help control an influx of migrants, as the European Commission confirmed it would shortly authorize more such extensions within the passport-free Schengen zone. Seven members of the Schengen zone, including Germany and Denmark, have introduced temporary border controls after more than one million migrants entered the European Union last year, mostly via Greece. The European Commission, struggling to prevent the collapse of the Schengen accord, is expected this month to allow EU member states to retain the emergency border checks, which are due to expire in May, for a while longer."

Niger tells Europe it needs 1 billion euros to fight illegal migration (Reuters, link): "Niger, a major transit country for Africans seeking to reach the EU, told foreign ministers visiting from Europe on Tuesday it needs 1 billion euros to combat illegal migration. As many as 150,000 migrants, most coming from other West African nations, will travel through Niger this year, crossing the Sahara Desert on their way to the Mediterranean coast, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM)."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (4.5.16)
Greece, Lesvos: A very important legal victory: Electra (link)

"This is today's Decision of Lesvos Prosecutor, making clear that the Moria Center is NOT a place where Unaccompanied Minors can possibly "reside". It can be used to effectively challenge the detention of every single youth detained in that space".

300 organisations and 11,000 individuals denounce the EU-Turkey agreement and see: CEAR denuncia junto a más 300 organizaciones el acuerdo UE-Turquía (link):

"The Spanish Refugee Aid Commission (CEAR) has today presented before the European Commission, the Council of Europe and the EU Ombudsman its complaint about the EU-Turkey deal and the infringement of the rights of refugees, with the support of 294 organisations and more than 11,000 individual signatures....

"Withdrawing the agreement with Turkey is the last opportunity for the EU to recover its decency, avoid putting at risk the lives of thousands of people who have fled war, and to prevent the treaties that it has signed on human rights and the right to asylum from becoming nothing more than wasted paper," said Estrella Galán, general secretary of CEAR."

See The list of social collectives and entities; professional organisations, networks and platforms, universtities and research centres, political organisations and trade unions that have signed the CEAR letters - including Statewatch - can be viewed: Here (link, pdf)

The petition open for individual signatures is here: Detengan las expulsiones de refugiados y retiren el acuerdo con Turquía (change.org, link)

Welcome2eu: Superb guides: Welcome to Italy:Info Guide for refugees and migrants (72 pages, great detail, English, link) and Italian (link) and Long guide (English, pdf, link) and Long guide (Italian, pdf, link)

European Commission: Proposal for a COUNCIL IMPLEMENTING DECISION setting out a recommendation for temporary internal border control in exceptional circumstances putting the overall functioning of the Schengen area at risk (COM 275-16, pdf): Applies only to AU, DE, DK, SE, NO.

and see Background: Can Schengen be suspended because of Greece? Should it be? (EU Law Analysis, link)

EU: SCHENGEN & BORDER CONTROLS: Letter to European Commission from Austria, France, Germany and Denmark: Letter (pdf):

"Our countries have reintroduced temporary border controls along the internal borders of the Schengen area to manage the migration flow and respond to the concerns of public order and security.

Even though the refugee situation at the internal borders along the Balkan route is no longer as dramatic as in the past, we are concerned about developments at the European Union's external borders. In some places persistent serious shortcomings and structural deficits have been detected by the Schengen evaluation. We do not assume that they can be permanently remedied in the very near future. Furthermore, a considerable number of migrants are still in Greece and along the Balkan route. We do not know whether and to what extent they have been registered."

Hungary to hold EU refugee quota referendum by October (euractiv, link): "Hungary will hold a referendum in September or early October, on whether to accept any future European Union quota system for resettling refugees, the prime minister’s office said yesterday (3 May)."

UNHCR Daily Report (3.5.16) Lawyers finaly allowed to enter some detention centres

"Greek Alternate Minister of Migration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas agreed to allow permanent presence of lawyers in two facilities in Eleonas, Attica, as well as in Moria, Lesvos, following a meeting with the head of the Athens Bar Association, Vasilis Alexandris, on 28 April. The program will be launched tentatively under the responsibility of the Greek Bar’s Committee for refugees and migrants issues, headed by Panagiotis Perakis, who was also present at the meeting. The ministry said the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) has also expressed an interest in offering legal aid to refugees in Moria."

See also: Pilot Program to Allow Fixed Presence of Greek Lawyers in Two Refugee Centers (Greek Reporter, link)

Migrant flow to Greek islands ebbs but camps full (ekathimerini.com, link):

"There were no migrant and refugee landings on the shores of Lesvos for a fourth straight day Tuesday. Also no arrivals were reported on the islands of Chios and Samos between Monday and Tuesday morning.

A total of 8,190 people are being hosted at the so-called hot spots on the three islands, with more than half of those staying on Lesvos. Another 10,000 migrants and refugees are living in a makeshift camp near the border village of Idomeni in northern Greece, with thousands more in state-run venues in Attica and other parts of Greece."

UNHCR report that: 53 refugees arrived in Lesvos on 3 May.

News (4.5.16)

Racism in Austria at its highest level in years (The Local.at, link): "Racism in Austria is at its highest level for years according to an annual report released by the anti-discrimination organisation ZARA.... Two thirds of the racist remarks or acts referred to refugees, and were directed towards either asylum seekers or people supporting them. The ZARA statistics are only a guide to the extent of racism in Austria as they just reflect the number of incidents that were registered by people with the organisation." and see: The far right is weaselling into the mainstream, dressed up in suits (Guardian, link)

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (3.5.16)
Eurostat press release: Almost 90 000 unaccompanied minors among asylum seekers registered in the EU in 2015 (pdf): "In 2015, 88 300 asylum seekers applying for international protection in the Member States of the European Union (EU) were considered to be unaccompanied minors. While their number always stood between 11 000 and 13 000 in the EU over the period 2008-2013, it almost doubled in 2014 to reach slightly more than 23 000 persons, then nearly quadrupled in 2015.

In 2015, a substantial majority of unaccompanied minors were males (91%) and over half were aged 16 to 17 (57%, or 50 500 persons), while those aged 14 to 15 accounted for 29% (25 800 persons) and those aged less than 14 for 13% (11 800 persons). Around half (51%) of asylum applicants considered to be unaccompanied minors in the EU in 2015 were Afghans."

And see: Italy struggles to house migrants in third year of mass arrivals (Reuters, link): "About 27,000 boat migrants have reached Italy since Jan. 1, slightly up on the same period last year and following a total 153,000 arrivals in 2015 and 170,000 in 2014.

The numbers are expected to rise this year because countries along the “Balkan route” – starting with a short boat ride from Turkey to Greece and continuing on land up to Austria – have shut their borders. That may cause more migrants to sail from Libya to Sicily, the closest part of Italy.

Many of the new arrivals move swiftly to wealthier northern Europe, although Austria has said it may shut down its main border crossing in the Alps to them. Already 113,000 are housed in Italy, some three-quarters of them in what are called “temporary” shelters.

The situation is acute for minors like Darboe, who Italian law requires be treated with extra care and be integrated quickly into the school system.

More than 2,700 unaccompanied minors arrived in Italy during the first three months of the year, the Interior Ministry says, a four-fold increase on the same period of 2015. "

Commission denies free pass to Germany and Austria on border controls (Politico, link): "The European Commission plans to let EU countries impose internal border checks for another six months — including during the summer tourist season — before insisting on a return to free travel in the Schengen zone, according to officials.

In a decision due to be published Wednesday, the Commission will recommend allowing the internal border checks in five countries until November, but Brussels will require oversight of the controls that Germany and Austria, among others, are pushing for. “The decision for Wednesday is made,” said an EU official familiar with the plans.

According to a draft of the decision, seen by POLITICO, the Commission recommends allowing “Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway to maintain proportionate temporary border controls for a maximum period of six months, starting from the day of the adoption of this Implementing Decision” at their respective shared borders."

The Commission will include proposals for regular monitoring, according to a quote from the document seen by Politico: “Border control should be targeted and limited in scope, frequency, location and time, to what is strictly necessary to respond to the serious threat and to safeguard public policy and internal security."

Such a system would not be entirely unfamiliar - Schengen states already undergo evaluations to assess their conformity with the Schengen Borders Code, as can be seen in these Council documents (pdfs): Schengen evaluation of AUSTRIA: Action plans to remedy deficiencies identified in the 2015 evaluation report in the field of:

And: Draft Council Implementing Decision setting out a Recommendation on addressing the deficiencies identified in the 2015 evaluation of the application of the Schengen acquis in the field of the Schengen Information System by Austria (LIMITE doc no: 5864/1/16 REV 1, 10 February 2016) and Council Implementing Decision (6222/16, 16 February 2016)

UNHCR Daily Report (2.5.16)

German authorities announced on Thursday, 28 April, that all asylum applications will be processed by the end of 2016, according to the head of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. Around 400,000 asylum cases are pending and another 300,000 people are waiting for a date to be set to commence their asylum procedure.

In Austria, in 2015, 85,798 people lodged asylum claims, which constitutes an increase by almost 215% in comparison to 2014. Most were from Afghan nationals (over 25,560), followed by Syrians (almost 24,550) and Iraqis (approx. 13,630). The asylum recognition rate stood at 35% with over 80% of recognition for Syrians. In addition, 2,478 people were granted subsidiary protection.

News (3.5.16)

EU may fine countries for rejecting refugees (EUobserver, link): "The EU Commission plans to impose fines on countries that refuse to take refugees under revised EU asylum laws to be put forward on Wednesday (4 May). The commission will propose a sanction of €250,000 per refugee, according to the Financial Times.

The commission's proposal will maintain the guiding principle of the current system that the country where migrants first step into the EU must deal with asylum applications.

But it proposes that when a country at the EU’s external border is overwhelmed, asylum seekers should be distributed across the continent. "

Syrian refugees flown out by pope start new life in Rome (Reuters, link): "For Nour Essa, one of the Syrian refugees who flew out of Lesbos on Pope Francis' plane last week, it was a choice tinged with shock, joy and sadness - and it had to be made immediately.

"They asked me 'Are you ready to leave for Italy tomorrow? You will be on the same plane with the pope. You must give me your answer now'," Essa recalled as she sat on a schoolyard bench with her husband Hasan Zaheda and two-year-old son Riad.

"We were shocked," the 30-year-old said in an interview with Reuters as she and her husband prepared to start an Italian language class.

The choice was offered at about 9 p.m. last Friday evening. Less than 18 hours later they and nine other Syrian refugees, all of them Muslim, were bound for Rome on the pope's plane. For some, including Zaheda, it was their first time on an aircraft."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (30.4.16-2.5.16)
The Refugee Crisis Is Humanity’s Crisis (NYT, link):

"This is the third in a series of dialogues with philosophers and critical theorists on the question of violence. This conversation is with Zygmunt Bauman, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Leeds, Britain. His latest book, “Strangers at the Door” is published with Polity Press....

I don’t believe there is a shortcut solution to the current refugee problem. Humanity is in crisis —- and there is no exit from that crisis other than the solidarity of humans. The first obstacle on the road to the exit from mutual alienation is the refusal of dialogue: that silence that accompanies self-alienation, aloofness, inattention, disregard and indifference. Instead of the duo of love and hate, the dialectical process of border-drawing needs to be thought therefore in terms of the triad of love, hate and indifference or neglect that the refugee, in particular, continues to face."

Hungary: Humanitarian disaster on the transit zones, unclear plans on legislation, and climate of fear: update on the asylum policy in Hungary (migszol.com, link):

"Many are asking us about the situation in Hungary regarding the transit zones and the planned legislation that would abolish all integration contract. In this post, we have gathered some of the latest information on the situation....

The situation is particularly worrying in the so called transit zone at the southern border. While access to the actual containers where cases are handled in extreme speed is restricted, humanitarian groups are working on both sides of the border. We especially recommend this testimony from a volunteer at the humanitarian group Migration Aid, describing the situation in the transit zone this week

We are extremely concerned about the new plan of the Austrian government to push back asylum seekers to Hungary and Italy. Leaving Hungary is becoming extremely difficult - undercover policemen, quite clearly relying on racial profiling, are trying to catch people in the train stations, and the cars travelling from Hungary to Austria are being checked...

Migszol is increasingly worried about the fact that the rhetoric and language that Hungarian politicians and authorities use about refugees remains unnoticed. During the celebration of the 5th anniversary of the Fidesz-drafted Hungarian constitution, the Prime Minister Viktor Orban stated that “islamization” is against the constitution of Hungary that defines the country as Christian. The rhetoric of Orban, as well as other notable politicians in Hungary, increasingly relies not only on islamophobia, but an increasingly racial definition of muslims as a separate ethnic identity that needs to be separated from white, Christian Hungary."


"The Hungarian online media has been steadily reporting in the past weeks on the miserable situation developing in the transit zones at Röszke and Kelebia; alleviating the humanitarian challenges is particularly difficult given the uncooperative attitude of the local authorities.

However, there is another aspect of the refugee crisis that gets little to no attention. We know that the Hungarian Office of Immigration and Nationality adjudicates approximately 20 cases a day, making it possible for about 40 asylum seekers / day to enter the country “legally” at the Serbian-Hungarian border. We also know that it is practically impossible for unaccompanied men to enter the transit zone and submit their asylum claim, not even if they are fleeing from Syrian war zones...."

Are You Syrious (1.5.16, link)

Volunteers needed on multiple locations

"Volunteers are still needed to cover Team Brit day shifts at Piraeus port, where 2189 refugees were staying yesterday. Volunteers are also needed in Cherso/Kilkis, where Love in Action is looking for hard working people for distribution in the camp and work in the warehouse. Accommodation and food are covered, driving license is welcome.

Again, Idomeni is in great need of volunteers — many of the teams in the field are really struggling right now. EKO kitchen, The EKO project, Team Banana, Hot Food Idomeni, Warehouse, Nurture Project International, RefuAid and Health / Dental Point Project are in dire need of volunteers. You can find more about their specific needs in a massive post in Information Point for Idomeni Volunteers FB group, which is one of the best info groups available."

BULGARIA: Patriarch Neophyte and Bulgarian Orthodox Church against taking in more refugees

““We live in difficult times, the very foundations of the world around us are shaken. Moral values ??that were observed for centuries are being questioned and rejected. In this atmosphere of value disorientation, waves of migrants with different beliefs, world view and traditions are coming and bringing more and more challenges to us”, said Patriarch Neophyte in his address to the Bulgarian people for Easter, according to local Standart News.

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has also announced it will help refugees who have arrived in Bulgaria, but has urged authorities not to let any more in."

UNHCR: (1.5.16): 1,776 refugees arrived in Lesvos in April.

EU set to drive forward visas for Turks in migrant deal (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Despite deep public misgivings in some countries, the European Union will this week drive forward a plan to grant Turks visa-free travel to Europe as a reward for having reduced a flood of refugees and migrants into Europe to a trickle.

The European Commission is set to declare on Wednesday that Turkey has broadly met the criteria for early visa liberalization in a blaze of last-minute legislation and ask EU governments and the European Parliament to approve the decision by the end of June, several EU sources said....

EU officials insist the union made no promise, and the offer applies only if Turkey meets 72 legal and technical conditions. ...

A senior EU diplomat belittled any suspense around the conditions, saying: "This is just a joke. We have already made the decision...." [emphasis added]

Are You Syrious (30.4.16, link):

162 new arrivals to the islands

"Government sources report on the presence of 53,687 refugees and migrants in the country on April 30th as of 8:00 AM. The majority of them are still on the Greek mainland, while there are 8,042 people at the islands. Government sources report on 162 new arrivals to the islands?—?67 to Samos and 95 to #Chios. Volunteers report that there were no arrivals to the Northern coast of #Lesvos by 6:00 PM today (Sat, Apr 30th), while no information is available for the South of the island."

Irish group works to provide Wi-Fi for refugees trapped on the islands, volunteers are needed.

"The Irish group Disaster Tech Lab is sending a team to the islands between Greece and Turkey to build public internet facilities which will serve as public information points as well as allowing the refugees to establish contact relatives and friends. Additionally, they will provide secure WiFi networks for other humanitarian aid workers to use. They are looking for volunteers with specific technical skills (WiFi networking, Vsat, VoIP). More information on the application process is available at: http://bit.ly/1QHQvfu."

FRANCE: Volunteers will soon open kitchens and community spaces for refugees. Volunteers needed for final touch-ups.

"Volunteers report that four out of seven of the kitchens and community spaces are due to open in the new #Dunkirk camp on Tuesday or Wednesday, with wood burning cooking stoves, kitchen consuls, hot and cold running water, lighting, floored, free shop/distribution area, tables and benches, booth platforms etc. The residents of the camp are excited by the prospect. If there are volunteers skilled with wood, general making, set building, building, tent manufacturing, or plumbing who can help to get the final three spaces finished over the next week please contact Finn Kay on Facebook by private message."

Dublin Agreement might be renegotiated with each country taking more additional refugees.

On Wednesday May 4th, The European Commission will propose to the member states an amendment to the Dublin Regulation related to the responsibility of receiving refugees and migrants from the entry countries. If the agreement is reached, the first countries receiving migrants will have the responsibility to record and identify up to 150% of the originally agreed upon number?—?beyond this percentage, other states will have to share this responsibility by receiving the exceeding number of people. The Member States which refuse to receive these people will have to pay a fee for each person refused.

EU not providing fair and safe reception system in Greece, says Oxfam (ekathimerini.com, link):

"The European Union is failing to deliver a fair and safe system for receiving people in Greece, according to charity group Oxfam.

The Greek government’s limited capacity and the pressure to meet the terms of the EU-Turkey agreement has led to refugees and migrants being kept in poor conditions, stressed the humanitarian organization in a statement on Friday.

“Europe has created this mess and it needs to fix it in a way that respects people’s rights and dignity,” said Giovanni Riccardi Candiani, Oxfam’s representative in Greece. “The EU says it champions the rights of asylum-seekers beyond its borders but these rights are not being respected within EU countries.”"

April 2016

Europe’s failure on refugees echoes the moral collapse of the 1930s (Guardian , link)

":n 1938, representatives from 32 western states gathered in the pretty resort town of Evian, southern France. Evian is now famous for its water, but back then, the delegates had something else on their minds. They were there to discuss whether to admit a growing number of Jewish refugees, fleeing persecution in Germany and Austria. After several days of negotiations, most countries, including Britain, decided to do nothing.

On Monday, I was reminded of the Evian conference when British MPs voted against welcoming just 600 child refugees a year over the next half-decade. The two moments are not exactly comparable. History doesn’t necessarily repeat itself. But it does echo, and it does remind us of the consequences of ethical failure. Looking back at their inaction at Evian, delegates could claim they were unaware of what was to come. In 2016, we no longer have that excuse."

Greece: "DOG DAYS ON SAMOS" - Sofiane Ait Chalalet and Chris Jones (link, with Archives back to 2012):

"we are back to an island which is staggeringly beautiful but which has a vile tumour throbbing less than a kilometre from the centre of the main town. There are hundreds of children amongst the inmates, languishing behind a double fence topped with razor wire. On every possible ground imaginable the camp is not a safe place for children. Even though the camp has doubled its capacity the new, bottom half, has yet to open so all the refugees are crammed in the older part which was constructed for 250 people. The principled opposition of the big NGOs not to work or co-operate with closed camps makes life more difficult...."

Who are we: "Sofiane Ait Chalalet is Algerian and came to Samos in 2006. He subsequently married a Greek artist which gave him the necessary papers to live and work in Greece without fear of the daily persecution which is the plight of so many undocumented people here. Chris Jones came to Samos about the same time as Sofiane. He was a university professor in Britain.

Both Sofiane and Chris have spent their lives working with some of the most oppressed and vulnerable both in Greece, Britain and Algeria."

Are You Syrious (link)

More arrivals to the Greek islands.

"There were 68 new arrivals to Samos today, mainly from Syria and Afganistan but also from Iraq, Palestine, and a considerable group from Algeria. The camp is so busy that they can barely find a place to put up their tents. Many set them up on a steep slope which is very unconformable for sleeping, but even this “option” is not available anymore."

Italy: Refugees’ rights for seeking asylum severely violated by Italian police.

"According to the organizations Naga, Asgi and Avvocati per Niente, in Milan’s police Headquarters (Questura), refugees have to fill in a preset form from April 2016, with a list of questions about departure country, states crossed on the way, and reason for migration. Then, an officer evaluates the form and decides on a refugee’s acceptance or expulsion from Italy. There is no chance for a trial to re-evaluate the case.

The organizations claim that the practice is illegitimate, since only the Territorial Commission for Asylum is the only authority in charge of assessing requests for asylum and protection. In this situation, a policeman substitutes an expert in understanding such a critical issue....

In the last 20 days, the lawyers of the candidates are forbidden to enter the police headquarters, another practice against the law. Meanwhile, Naga offers assistance with shelters and courses of Italian language, but also information sharing. These days, they strongly discourage the migrants to apply at the police headquarters."

Leaving refugees hungry is despicable! We are trying to help

"The Calais Kitchen would not mind your help. They need more donated food, more money to top up supplies, and volunteers to help them prepare all the food packs. Please contact them to volunteer at: Calaiskitchens@gmail.com; to drop off supplies at: Calaisdonations@gmail.com, or donate."

UNHCR: Daily Report 29.4.16:

"floating hotspots"!

"In order to address people’s reluctance to register upon arrivals to the Italian shores, the Italian government announced a plan to register people at sea. Following talks with European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, who stated that Italy should be prepared to receive more refugees and migrants, Interior Minister Angelo Alfano spoke of a proposal to convert ships into virtual floating “hotspot” reception centres as a possible method to this respect."

And see:Italy to start fingerprinting migrants at sea (The Local.it, link): "Italy is to introduce the fingerprinting of migrants crossing the Mediterranean as soon as they are picked up by rescue boats, officials say."

NATO to the rescue again

"Following a meeting of the heads of state of the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Italy, in the context of NATO support aimed at deterring human smuggling to Europe, the American administration will source US ships to ongoing operations in international waters near the coast of Libya."

Eight EU Member States have introduced border controls

"On 26 April, the Greek government sent additional information to the European Commission (EC) regarding further measures they would implement to better manage the EU’s external borders. This information will feed into the EC’s assessment of potential deficiencies in the management of the EU’s external borders, as part of the so-called “Back To Schengen” roadmap. The outcome of this assessment will be available by 12 May. Should the EC find remaining deficiencies, it could propose to allow member states to prolong temporary border controls within the Schengen area until mid-November. Since September 2015, eight of the 26-Member Schengen area (including Austria and Germany) have introduced border control measures aimed at stemming the flow of refugees and migrants across Europe."

News (30.4-2-5-16)

Commission to give green light to extension of border controls (euractiv, link): "The European Commission wants to give Germany and other member states the option of extending internal border controls beyond the middle of May." And: Denmark pushes EU for longer border controls (The Local.dk, link): "Denmark is among six countries asking the European Commission to extend temporary controls at the internal borders of the Schengen area, as part of efforts to more closely monitor migration flows."

France: Police suspect arson after Muslim prayer hall burns in Corsica (DW, libk): "Prosecutors say the fire at the prayer hall in the capital, Ajaccio, was probably a criminal act. The French Mediterranean island experienced days of anti-Arab riots over Christmas."

Italy: 20-30 migrants drown during rescue operation - 454 arrive in Pozzallo, two bodies recovered (ANSA, link): "May 2 - Between 20 and 30 migrants are believed to have died on Friday during a rescue operation in the Mediterranean, sources said Monday. The deaths occurred after a freighter that had intercepted a migrant boat in difficulty put down a ladder to allow the passengers to climb on board.."

Refugee's Extradition to Turkey Rejected by Polish Court (Liberties.eu, link): "The man was wanted by Turkey for being a member of a terrorist group, but his status as a refugee had already been confirmed by Belgian authorities."

Italian NGOs Join Forces to Stop Forced Returns of Migrants (Liberties.eu, link) "Two Italian NGOs, Amnesty Italy and ASGI, are seeking justice for migrants who were forced by the Italian government to return to Libya, where they were imprisoned and abused... When deported back to Libya, these asylum seekers were thrown in jail and subjected to months of abuse. Some of them eventually managed to escape and reach Europe; others, however, have not been as lucky."

Greece: Underage Refugees in Lesvos to Be Moved to Separate Camp (Greek Reporter, link): "Greece’s Deputy Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas announced that the 380 unaccompanied minors at the Moria refugee registration camp in Lesvos will be transferred to a separate camp.

The decision came after the riots on Holy Tuesday, when refugees and migrants of different nationalities rioted, with most of them being unaccompanied minors.

The Greek government decided to move all unaccompanied underage refugees to a separate camp on the island under the supervision of NGOs Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children and METAdrasi."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (29.4.16)
EU: After the 18 March EU-Turkey "Statement", the "Letter" of assurances from Turkey, yet another set of "letters": What is the legal basis of "non-binding" documents?

Council of the European Union: Standard Operating Procedures implementing the mechanism for resettlement from Turkey to the EU as set out in the EU-Turkey Statement of 18 March 2016 - Endorsement (LIMITE doc no: 8366-16, pdf)

"Once endorsed by the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States and Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein meeting in the margins of COREPER, the Standard Operating Procedures will be formalised by way of an exchange of letters between the Commission and the Turkish authorities."

The following are excluded or NOT eligible:

"The person does not constitute a threat to public policy, internal security and public health;

A candidate who has refused admission to a particular Member State is no longer eligible;

Priority will be given to eligible persons who have not previously entered or tried to enter the EU irregularly"

After Greece: Here we go again: Germany tells Italy to stem migrant flow to north Europe (The Local.it, link):

"Germany's interior minister on Friday put the onus on Italy to halt a new mass influx of migrants to northern Europe, lending backing to Austria in a row with Rome.

"We share Austria's position that there should not be a repeat of what happened along the Balkan route last autumn on the road from the Italian border northwards," said Thomas de Maiziere after a meeting with his Austrian counterpart Wolfgang Sobotka.

"We have said we want to reduce the numbers of refugees sustainably, above all at the external borders, and a policy of simply waving people through would only spur more from outside the EU to come to Europe," said the German interior minister..."

OMCT: World Organisation Against Torture: Greece: Ongoing crackdown on civil society providing humanitarian assistance to migrants and asylum seekers (pdf):

"The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing crackdown on civil society actors providing humanitarian assistance to migrants and asylum seekers arriving in the Greek islands, even including judicial harassment against several groups and NGOs acting to protect migrants' rights, of Team Humanity Denmark....

on February 21, 2016 a last minute amendment was made to a Law voted by the Greek Parliament, in violation of several provisions of the Parliament’s Rules of Procedures. The new provision assigns the supervision and coordination of services provided to migrants and asylum seekers to the Greek Army and Minister of Defence, in newly established army-run facilities. This provision has led to a coordinated effort to stop civil society activities in camps that are not run by the army, through extensive threats of arrest and prosecution]. Moreover, several journalists and NGOs, including the Hellenic Action for Human Rights “Pleiades”’, are often not allowed access to army-run facilities....

The Observatory strongly condemns this crackdown on civil society actors in Greece, calls on the Greek authorities to put an end to the ongoing attempts to criminalise NGOs and volunteers working in the country in the field of humanitarian assistance to migrants and asylum-seekers or otherwise prevent them from carrying out their work and urges them to lift the ban on civil society activists and journalists to enter army-run camps."

See also: Council proposals on migrant smuggling would criminalise humanitarian assistance by civil society, local people and volunteers - Greece: NGOs and volunteers have to "register" with the police and be vetted (Statewatch) and NGOs and volunteers helping refugees in Greece to be placed under state control (Statewatch)

Is the EU-Turkey refugee and migration deal a treaty? (EU law Analysis, link):

"In the European Parliament, questions were asked about the legal nature of the EU-Turkey Statement of 18 March, pursuant to which Greece has started to return asylum seekers to Turkey this week. Apparently, the EU’s procedure for negotiating and concluding treaties with third countries, laid down in in Art. 218 TFEU, has not been followed. The European Parliament wants to know whether the Council nonetheless considers the Statement to be a treaty, and, if not, whether Turkey has been informed about the non-binding nature. Importantly, for treaties “covering fields to which the ordinary legislative procedure applies” (asylum and immigration is such a field), the Council may only conclude a treaty with a third country after obtaining consent of the European Parliament (Art. 218(6)(a)(v) TFEU)......

That the institutional role of the EP has been neglected confirms the worrying trend that intergovernmental decision-making is taking over in the Union, and that national interests increasingly often prevail over the common values of the Union. This is bad for European democracy."

Are You Syrious (link):

53,717 refugees and migrants in Greece today

"After a few quiet days, late this afternoon, 23 new arrivals from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan (11 adults and 12 kids) were registered by volunteers at #Samos. At the same time, 41 persons arrived in Lesvos....

380 unaccompanied minors to be sent to a separate camp at Lesvos.

At Moria, according to Deputy Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas, there are 380 unaccompanied minors who will be transferred to a separate camp. The Greek government decided to move all unaccompanied underage kids to a separate camp on the island under the supervision of NGOs Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children and METAdrasi....

Solidarity is our weapon!

Around 200 refugees found a new home at the largest self-organized hospitality center in Greece, #CityPlaza, a old hotel in downtown Athens. The Facebook page they established details how the City Plaza was a hotel in downtown Athens which was abandoned by its management more than 6 years ago...

People deported to Croatia from other EU countries

Today we received information from different sources about deportations of refugees from different EU countries (as of now we know of Slovenia, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland) to Croatia. Apparently, they are sent back on the grounds of so called Dublin transfers?—?deportations in the first safe EU country of entry. Currently there are at least 20–30 persons in Croatia who were sent back in this way....

Fingerprinting of refugees to begin on rescue boats

The Italian government announced that refugees and migrants will be fingerprinted as soon as they are picked up by rescue boats. It was announced that this approach could help to reduce mounting tensions between Italy and its EU partners over the large numbers of migrants who arrive in Italy but are not registered here and then travel on to northern Europe. If they are not registered in Italy, neighboring countries like Austria and France and popular destination states like Germany and Sweden do not have the option of sending them back to Italy, which they should be able to do under the EU’s Dublin convention rules governing asylum claims....

230 people charged with a crime for helping refugees

According to a media report, the public prosecutor’s office charged 230 people for helping other people transit through the country “illegally” during the biggest wave of refugees last fall. Danish trafficking laws don’t distinguish between smuggling people for financial gain and doing it for humanitarian reasons. Some of them, as we reported earlier, are distinguished human rights activists, but many are just ordinary people who were helping other people in need."

UNHCR Daily report (28.4.16):

"In Greece, Alternate Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas has agreed to the permanent presence of lawyers in two accommodation centers (Elaionas in Athens, and Moria on Lesvos island), following a meeting with the head of the Athens Bar Association.

The Ministry said the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) has also expressed an interest in offering legal aid to refugees in Moria." [emphasis added]

Comment: Does not the Ministry know that under the Asylum Procedures Directive refugees have the right to legal aid? Why is it not ensuring that it is available to all?

Pro-Nazi nostalgia flourishes under new Croatia government (euractiv, link):

“Nostalgia” for a pro-Nazi past, spurning of ethnic minorities and pressure on the press: Croatian activists say an alarming climate of intolerance is taking hold under a new conservative government.

Since the ruling coalition took power in the European Union country in January, critics say authorities have turned a blind eye – and even contributed to – concerns over a far-right right surge.

Last week, in response, angry Jewish, ethnic Serb and anti-fascist groups refused to attend a ceremony remembering tens of thousands who died at Jasenovac, the most notorious concentration camp under Croatia’s pro-Nazi Ustasha regime during World War II.

The boycott was a “brave and correct decision in the face of the wave of neo-fascist Ustasha nostalgia which is sweeping Croatia”, said Efraim Zuroff at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish rights organisation".

Fascism and the far right in Europe: country by country guide – part one (dream deferred, link)::

"Europe is witnessing a dangerous revival of fascist and racist populist parties and organisations. Over the next few weeks we are going to publish a series of articles analysing the scale of this threat.

We will focus on the countries where fascist and racist parties have made significant electoral and/or organisational breakthroughs. There are small fascist groups operating in several other countries, but with very small numbers and little impact. We intend to look separately at the situation in Russia at a later date and have not included it here."

News (29.4.16)

Italy: Border plans 'an enormous mistake' (The Local, at, link): "Italy told Austria Thursday it would prove Vienna was "wasting money" on anti-migrant measures and closing the border between the two countries would be "an enormous mistake"."

Migrants cling to trucks in bid to reach Sweden (The Local, dk, link): "Growing numbers of asylum seekers are trying to get to Sweden from Denmark by clinging to trucks, a ferry company has warned."

Mimica: Emergency Trust Fund for Africa ‘might not be a game-changer’ (euractiv, link): "In a wide-ranging interview, Commissioner Neven Mimica tells EurActiv.com’s Matthew Tempest about the executive’s master plan for legal migration, as well as the limits of development aid to African states in the rough."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (28.4.16)
European Commission: Remarks by Commissioner Avramopoulos to the Committee on Federal and European Affairs of the Bavarian Parliament on 26 April (pdf)

"To paraphrase an old saying information is security. We will respond to the terrorist threat effectively when we make our information systems interconnected, interoperable, and searchable..."

The Commissioner argues for a "Single Search Interface" where: "all data is searchable with just one click" - this requires major changes to laws on the book where acess is limited or prescribed. And see: Statewatch Analysis: Commission proposals on migration and internal security databases: a new list of old “needs” (pdf)

"Both the EU and Turkey need each other, as equal partners. This is a balanced partnership, one where we aim for each side to deliver on its commitments, but without renouncing our principles or conditions."

Many would argue that the EU wanted a deal at any price - even if it means tearing up all human rights and asylum law adopted since 1945.

"We must remember an element of political context: while we are working on these issues, we are witnessing the worrying rise in left and right wing violent extremism."

In context "right wing violent extremism" is carried out by extreme nationalists, racists and fascists. While what is characterised as "left wing violent extremism" is anti-racist and anti-fascist responses to the former - which is a piece of perverse logic.

EU-TURKEY "Dodgy deal": Legal concerns met?

UNHCR reports (27.4.16):

"In a letter to the European Commission sent on Tuesday, 26 April, the Turkish government pledged to bolster legal protection to non-Syrians upon return to Turkey as part of the EU-Turkey Agreement. This follows previous assurances concerning Syrians and the fact that all returned Syrians could be granted or re-avail themselves from temporary protection. These pledges aim to support the implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement by addressing the remaining legal concerns hampering its full implementation." [emphasis added]

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments:

"If this "letter" addressees legal concerns about the EU-Turkey "dodgy deal" why has it not been published? Does it commit Turkey to fully signing up to the Geneva Convention? If not it is worthless.

First we had the EU-Turkey deal in a "Statement" (18 March) and now an unpublished "letter" - neither of which are legally binding. In their desperate haste to shut the borders the EU is neglecting the basic tenets of lawful decision-making"

UN chief Ban Ki-moon hit out 'increasingly restrictive' EU refugee policies (dailysabah.com/europe, link):

""I am concerned that European countries are now adopting increasingly restrictive immigration and refugee policies," Ban said in a speech to the Austrian parliament.

"Such policies negatively affect the obligation of member states under international humanitarian law and European law."

His comments came a day after the Austrian parliament adopted one of Europe's toughest asylum laws, as the country's political leaders struggle to halt the surging far-right which is leading in presidential polls."

Frontex 2.0: The European Union’s armed wing - Further reinforced and still untouchable (MIgreurop, link): "

By August 2016, the European institutions aim to replace Frontex by a new coast guards and border-guards agency which will further jeopardise the rights of migrants and refugees. This new mandate reinforces the serious concerns expressed by the FRONTEXIT campaign since its establishment: deter, control and keep away men, women and children deemed undesirable while they are exerting their right to leave any country and the right to seek asylum."

European Parliament: EU-Turkey deal flouts international laws and conventions (Press release: GUE/NGL group, link):

"The agreement to return migrants and asylum seekers from Greece to Turkey, which Turkey and EU countries agreed on 18 March, sparked strong criticism from GUE/NGL MEPs during a European Parliament debate this morning, which focused on its legal aspects, implementation and democratic control.

Spanish GUE/NGL MEP, Marina Albiol, said: "The EU-Turkey agreement, which involves thousands of people remaining in Turkey, is inhuman and cruel. This agreement undermines EU standards regarding the return of refugees in the EU to their countries of origin. It undermines our legislation on refugees, the Geneva Convention, the European Charter of Human Rights and a long list of other laws and agreements."

MEP Albiol mentioned Article 263 of the TFEU which gives the Parliament the possibility to introduce an appeal to the European Court of Justice if EU legislation is not being complied with by the Council. "If we don't do this in this case, then the European Parliament will be an accomplice to the crimes being committed by our governments."

Visa roadblock threatens EU-Turkey migration deal (politico, link):

"MEPs and diplomats say that if Turkey fails to meet all of the required criteria — which include guarantees to protect civil liberties — they will exercise their legislative power to deny visa liberalization. For its part, Turkey has already said that lifting the restrictions before June is a non-negotiable part of its controversial agreement to stem the flow of refugees into the EU.

Unless somebody backs down, that means the EU’s whole deal with Ankara — pushed by Angela Merkel, hashed out in difficult negotiations with the European Commission and other EU leaders, and now vigorously defended by Council President Donald Tusk — could unravel altogether.

“The feeling of lack of trust on the visa [liberalization] and on the camps [for refugees] is widespread, no one believes in it but we cannot say it openly because there is no alternative” — An EU diplomat

A key deadline hits next Wednesday, when the Commission will issue its next report on Turkey’s progress in meeting the criteria. MEPs say they worry the Commission will try to gloss over shortcomings in that progress in order to keep Ankara happy. They promise they will insist on holding everyone to the EU rules."

UNHCR (Daily Report, 27.4.16):

"According to media, the Director of the Greek Asylum Service announced that people are now able to lodge asylum claims directly at temporary accommodation centres following difficulties in obtaining an appointment via Skype. As of 25 April, authorities will examine 50 applications per day on the islands. So far (as of 20 April), the Asylum Service registered 3,870 applications for relocation, of which 1,570 were accepted by EU Member States.

In Turkey, during the period between 22 to26 April, sources reported that some 270 people were apprehended, intercepted, or rescued at Turkey’s land and sea borders. Their countries of origin include Afghanistan, Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan, Palestine and Syria."

Austria curtails asylum rights (euractiv, link):

"Austria has passed one of Europe's toughest asylum laws, designed to stop inflows of people seeking international protection. Lawmakers passed the new bill on Wednesday (27 April) amid broader fears over migration that have helped the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) to surge in popularity, with its main candidate taking a surprise lead in presidential elections.

The law allows the federal government to declare a "state of emergency" and refuse entry to migrants if numbers suddenly rise.

The new measures will give border police the power to turn back asylum seekers including Syrians, denying them the right to have their cases heard.

Those who can convince the police that their lives are in danger or that they risk degrading treatment in a neighbouring country will be allowed to apply for asylum." [emphasis added]

Migrant crisis: Austria passes controversial new asylum law (BBC News, link) and see: MEPs urge Juncker to stand against Austria border fence (euractiv, link): "Leading MEPs have urged European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to take a position against Austria’s plans to erect a fence at its border with Italy, at the Brenner pass."

Also: Austria: Drastic, Unjustified Measures against Asylum Seekers (HRW, link): "The key feature of the package of special measures is a fast-track admissibility procedure for asylum seekers at Austrian land borders. Austrian police officers will examine applications solely for the purposes of determining whether individuals can be returned to the neighboring country from which they came. Only people who argue successfully that their lives would be in danger or that they face a real risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment in a neighboring country, or who have a nuclear family member already in Austria, will be allowed to formally apply for asylum. Appeals against returns will only be possible after the return has taken place. The law increases the amount of time people can be detained pending return from five to 14 days."

Contested Turkey deal 'only solution' in migrant crisis, says EU commissioner (ekathimerini.com, link):

"A highly contested EU deal with Turkey may not be ideal, but it is the only solution to stem the migration crisis, the bloc's Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Christos Stylianides said Thursday.

The deal in which Turkey agrees to take back certain migrants fleeing to Greece in exchange for visa-free travel in the EU has angered member countries and rights activists. The accord is awash with legal and moral concerns, and critics have accused the EU of sacrificing its values and overlooking Turkey's growing crackdown on free speech in order to secure the deal."

Are you Syrious? (27.4.16, link):

New legislation makes it more difficult to seek asylum in Austria, gives the government the right to declare a state of emergency in response to refugee influx

The German website dw.com reported that the Austrian parliament passed legislation which makes it significantly harder for refugees to seek asylum in Austria. It allows the government to declare a state of emergency if the influx of migrants to the country “threatens national security,” and allows asylum seekers to be rejected directly at the border. This would include refugees from war-torn countries such as Syria.

Amnesty International condemns the new legislation, calling it a violation of international law, while Human Rights Watch calls it a “blow to the rights of asylum seekers”. Judith Sunderland, acting deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, says “these measures constitute a legal wall to asylum just as despicable as a razor-wire fence”, adding Austria should not take “unilateral decisions to pass asylum seekers around like hot potatoes.”...

"79 new arrivals to Greece today.

Refugees are continuing to arrive to Greece, and more are making their way into other countries on the Balkan route, as well as some EU countries. According to the UNHCR data, yesterday 62 people were registered on the Greek islands, 17 on mainland Greece. At the same time, 73 people were registered in Serbia, 127 in Hungary, and 230 in Austria...

Greek authorities are struggling to find accommodations for unaccompanied minors.

Ekathimerini.com reports that 380 unaccompanied minors remain without housing due to staff shortages. According to the law, it is illegal for a minor to be housed in hotspots, but this continues to happen. The National Center of Social Solidarity is working to accommodate 200 minors by the end of May....

17 people injured during the clashes at Moria camp as people remain detained and in fear of deportation to Turkey.

According to the Greece media, 17 people have been injured during the clashes yesterday at #Moria camp. The atmosphere is still tense. One of the volunteers reported:

“I arrived after almost all people were in tents, but I witness one unnecessary shot of teargas. Police closed the area around for hours, many ambulances comes from #Mytilene collect injured refugees. #MSF doctors waiting outside if needed. Bad situation for few refugees from Cameron, Kongo seeking asylum, they stays over 1 month without access to any official information, asylum process not starting.”

Around 4000 refugees are being kept in a closed center in Moria, waiting for their decision for asylum. Many of them are afraid of being sent back to Turkey...

Refugees have launched a petition to replace the inefficient Skype system used by the Asylum Office.

People at Idomeni are petitioning for the replacement of the “failed system of only being able to make asylum appointments to the Greek Asylum Office with a Skype call that is never picked up with a face-to-face service in the refugee camps here in Greece”. Refugees in Greece have only three options to continue their lives beyond camps: to apply for asylum in Greece, to apply for family reunification or for relocation to another country in the EU if they want us. You can sign the petition here..

UK: Refugees stranded on UK military bases in Cyprus given fresh hope (Guardian, link):

"High court orders Theresa May to reconsider refusal to allow six families entry into Britain.

More than 30 refugees who have been stranded in UK sovereign military bases in Cyprus since 1998 have been given fresh hope of finding a permanent home in Britain. The high court in London has ordered the home secretary, Theresa May, to reconsider her refusal to allow the six families entry on grounds she did not consider all the relevant circumstances."

News (28.4.16)

EU Commissioner Avramopoulos inaugurates EU Regional Task Force's new building in Catania (ANAmpa, link): "Avramopoulos underlined. "With the inauguration of the new building of the EU Regional Task Force, we have taken another important step in consolidating our hotspot approach here in Italy," he added."

Czech Republic: Government condemns hate-related attacks on Prague cafes and shops (Prague Minotor, link): "The Czech cabinet condemned the authors of threatening inscriptions and Nazi symbols, which appeared at several places in Prague this weekend, at its meeting yesterday. It seems that the extremist graffiti was scrawled on cafes and shops participating in the HateFree Zone project that promotes tolerance to minorities and refugees and is supported by the Government Office."

EC concerned about Brenner Pass situation, Juncker to meet Renzi (ANSA, link): " The European Commission said Thursday that it was worried by Austria's plans to introduce controls at its border with Italy at the Brenner Pass. "The European Commission follows all the developments in Europe that go against the schedule to return (to the normal functioning of the Schengen agreement), in this case with serious concern," said EC spokesperson Mina Andreeva, adding that EC President Jean-Claude Juncker will meet Italian Premier Matteo Renzi in Rome next Thursday"

Ital;y-Austria: Tense talks as Italy fumes over Austria migrant 'slap' (The Local.at, link): ".Italy and Austria were set for showdown talks Thursday as Italian politicians and media reacted furiously to Vienna's new anti-migrant measures that could close the border between the two countries."

Refugees: Attacks on refugee homes as high as ever, German Criminal Police Office says (DW, link): "Despite decreasing numbers of refugees in Germany, the number of crimes on refugee accommodation shows no sign of waning. One of the German Criminal Police Office's (BKA) main fears is an attack by a lone wolf."

Justice: 'Oldschool Society' neo-Nazis go on trial for refugee home attacks (DW, link): "Four Germans have gone on trial on suspicion of planning to detonate nail bombs at a home for asylum seekers. The three men and one woman allegedly formed a far-right terror group, known as as the "Oldschool Society.""

Greece: Authorities scramble to find housing for child refugees (ekathimerini.com, link): "Some 380 unaccompanied minors remain in closed hot spots, detention centers and even on the streets, as a program to house them in rented apartments has yet to materialize due to staff shortages and despite increased funding by the European Union, authorities said on Wednesday."

Border checks between Italy and Austria 'inevitable', Hofer (ANSA, link): " Border checks at the Brenner Pass are inevitable, the head of Austria's far-right, anti-immigrant Freedom Party (FPO) Norbert Hofer has said. The FPO, which is pushing for tighter border control, won the first round of the country's presidential elections on Sunday."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (27.4.16)
NATO to blockade Libyan coast this summer to stop central Mediterranean migrant flows (Independent.mt, link):

"NATO is planning a naval blockade of the Libyan coat this summer to close off the central Mediterranean migration route, as the numbers of migrants using the route, which features Malta as a central point, are expected to surge.

The military alliance is reportedly just three months away from launching the mission, according to Italian Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti, who revealed the plans as the leaders of the US, Britain, France, Germany and Italy met in Hanover, Germany yesterday..

The plan will also incorporate parts of a broader Italian strategy to repatriate migrants found to have no claim for asylum, in other words, purely economic migrants, back to their home countries.... The repatriation plans have been heavily criticised by human rights groups and even Pope Francis, since they make an arbitrary distinction between genuine asylum seekers and economic migrants."

and see:Italy says NATO three months from Libya coast mission (France 24, link):

"NATO is already operating a naval force in the Aegean Sea to stop migrant boats reaching the Greek islands from Turkey.But an operation off Libya would be more complicated and potentially dangerous given the country's instability and the presence in some coastal regions of militants allied to the Islamic State group. Turning migrant boats back to Libya would also be hugely controversial given the unstable situation there."

Caritas-europa: Migrants and refugees have rights - Impact of EU policies on accessing protection (pdf):

"Caritas Europa seeks to contribute to appropriate humanitarian responses by providing evidence about the situations of migrants and asylum seekers, supported by
insight from Caritas’ staff and volunteers helping the people in need. It provides an in-depth analysis of the impact that current EU asylum and migration policies
are having on migrants in Europe....

Appropriate responses can only derive from recognising that migrants and asylum seekers are not a “flow” nor an “invasion”, but are women, men, and children,
whose human rights and needs are being jeopardised."

Syria can’t get worse? Check out the Turkish border - On the frontier with Turkey that EU leaders are afraid to visit, violence threatens the already fragile deal to keep refugees out of Europe.(politico, link):

"The border crossing where hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees entered Turkey in the first years of the war is almost deserted. It’s been closed for a year, and any Syrian hoping to be smuggled to safety in the neighboring country risks being shot.

Just across the frontier, in Syria, the situation is infinitely worse. Some 45,000 civilians were displaced by recent fighting between moderate rebels and ISIL in mid-April, and 20,000 are sleeping out in the open, aid workers say. “People are sitting on blankets, sleeping under the trees,” Ali al-Sheikh, a Syrian humanitarian volunteer, said at the Kilis border crossing Saturday. “They are short of drinking water. There are very few tents. There is sewage all around.”

This is the scene that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council President Donald Tusk didn’t see when they visited a model refugee camp 50 kilometers from the border last weekend."

Are You Syrious (26.4.16) link):

"Important information for refugees in Greece and volunteers to inform them:

The new asylum procedure is to have an interview about the admissibility of their claim for asylum in Greece first, before the substantive interview. Most people having their asylum claims rejected now are being rejected on inadmissibility by the government claiming that Turkey is a Safe Third Country for them.

Three of the absolutely key legal criteria for a Safe Third Country are-

1) that there is no risk of refoulement (forcible repatriation to their country of origin or any country or area where they have a well-founded fear of return to) and
2) that they have fully legal access to have their substantive claims for asylum examined in that third country, and
3) that they can get recognition of Refugee Status and effective protection in accordance with the Geneva Refugee Convention 1951 in that third country.

The Turkish governor of Izmir has explicitly said that non-Syrians will be detained for immediate deportation if returned from Greece, i.e. no access to asylum procedures and no chance to have their substantive claim examined or to receive effective protection.and this is in fact what has happened to all non-Syrian returnees so far."


Demonstrators face pepper spray over Brenner pass (The Local.at, link):

"Hundreds of Italian demonstrators on Sunday faced off with similar numbers of Austrian police at the border between the two countries in the latest sign of tensions arising from Europe's migrant crisis....

The demonstration had been called to protest over Austria's preparations for a possible restoration of border controls at the Brenner pass in the Alps because of fears of a potential surge of migrant arrivals in Italy. Wielding inflatable dinghies and brandishing a "People Over Borders" banner and "Refugees Welcome" placards, the protestors marched across the border and pushed up against a police line designed to prevent them blocking the road on the Austrian side."

Brenner closure would 'seriously damage' EU, Delrio says (ANSA, link):

"The closure of the Brenner Pass on the Italy-Austria border would cause "very serious damage" to the European Union, Italian Transport and Infrastructure Minister Graziano Delrio said on Tuesday.

"The closure of the Brenner Pass would cause very serious damage to the economy and transport, but also to the European Union because the Brenner Pass is the symbol of European integration," Delrio said. Austria has begun building a barrier along its side of the Brenner Pass at the border with Italy, which it says is letting too many asylum seekers through".

Austria Re-introduces Checks on Border with Hungary (novinite.com, link):

"Austria has re-introduced checks on its border with Hungary to curb the flow of irregular migrants, AP reported on Monday.

Austrian police have said that the number of attempts to smuggle illegal migrants into the country has increased since the Western Balkan migration route was closed to migrants earlier this year. The border controls began to apply on Monday morning, according to AP. Police haven’t said how long the controls will remain in force."

Dispatches: EU Deportations Resume, Troubles Abound (HRW, link):

"With little fanfare or media attention, the European Union and Greece yesterday quietly resumed deporting “irregular migrants” from Greece to Turkey.
After a two-week pause, boats reportedly took 31 people from Kos, 13 from Lesbos, and five from Chios – among them Afghanis, Iranians, and Jordanians....

The EU and Greece insist that all of the deportees declined to seek asylum in Greece. But can we be sure?

According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, among the first deportees in early April were 13 people who wished to seek protection in Greece. Our research on the Greek islands suggests that number could be higher."

UNHCR Daily Report, (26.4.16): Arrivals in the EU in 2016: 181,673: 154.491 to Greece (62 refugees arrived in Lesvos) , 26,279 to Italy. 1.261 dead/missing.

"As reported by local media, a group of 35 people currently located on the island of Lesvos are expected to be returned to Turkey on 26 April as part of the EU-Turkey agreement. Greek media reported that the majority have expressed their wish to be repatriated given the present situation, which only allows
for application to asylum in Greece."

In Slovenia, the stricter asylum legislation, which was passed a month and a half ago in the National Assembly, became effective on 24 April 2016. The legislation entails the acceleration of the processing of asylum claims, restriction for the conditions for asylum, and reduces the time frame for legal recourse. In addition, asylum applications are automatically considered inadmissible if the applicant enters Slovenia from.a safe country."

UK: Lords try again to overturn Tory refusal to help child refugees in Europe (Guardian, link):

"Peers hope to win over Conservative MPs after voting to set a quota on total unaccompanied children allowed into UK.. The plight of child refugees stranded in Europe has become the centre of a battle between the House of Commons and the Lords, after peers voted in support of a second proposal urging the government to take action.

Peers voted by 279 to 172, a majority of 107, for an amendment to the immigration bill calling on ministers to relocate and support a specified number of children in the UK.

MPs, who narrowly rejected an earlier call by Lord Dubs for 3,000 unaccompanied children to be given homes in the UK, will now be asked to consider this “softer” proposal, which some Tories say they will back.

News (27.4.16)

Greece: Protesting migrants removed from Idomeni railway tracks (ekathimerini.com., link): "Greek police on Wednesday said migrants and refugees were peacefully removed from the Idomeni railway line, near the Greek border with Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Migrants had been occupying the tracks demanding the opening of the border."

Eliasson: Europe needs a unified position on refugees (DW, link): "UN Deputy Secretary General, Jan Eliasson, worries about the negative view on refugees in Europe. In a DW interview, he said Europe needs to accept the necessity of migration and diversity for a vital society."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (26.4.16)
UNHCR Daily Report, (26.4.16)

"As reported by local media, a group of 35 people currently located on the island of Lesvos are expected to be returned to Turkey on 26 April as part of the EU-Turkey agreement. Greek media reported that the majority have expressed their wish to be repatriated given the present situation, which only allows
for application to asylum in Greece."

EU Commission: Refugees to become "displaced people" - out of sight, out of mind: Communication: Lives in Dignity: from Aid-dependence to Self-reliance (COM 234-16, pdf)

"The aim of this Communication is to put forward a policy framework to prevent forced displacement from becoming protracted and to gradually end dependence on humanitarian assistance in existing displacement situations by fostering self-reliance and enabling the displaced to live in dignity as contributors to their host societies, until voluntary return or resettlement." [emphasis added]

and Forced Displacement and Development (SWD-142-16, pdf):

"It provides an overview and assessment of the existing EU policies, instruments and practice in assisting refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and asylum seekers (together referred to as "forcibly displaced people") in third partner countries. It focuses on protracted forced displacement and its context, drivers and consequences for the displaced and their host communities and countries and presents findings and recommendations resulting from the review of past and ongoing stand-alone EU projects and interventions." [emphasis added]

Open Hotspots Again (HRW, link):

"On April 20, more than 160 asylum seekers and migrants reached Lesbos and Chios from Turkey. The police detained them in the closed facilities on those islands, Moria and VIAL, as they do everyone who has arrived on the islands since the ill-conceived EU-Turkey deal came into force a month ago.

But this blanket and automatic detention is unjustifiable on legal, humanitarian and practical grounds.

First, authorities should not automatically detain asylum seekers more than the shortest reasonable time. When they do, and alternatives exist, it constitutes arbitrary detention under international law.

Second, the conditions in Moria and VIAL, where about 4,500 people are held, are unacceptably poor. When the facilities became prison-like detention centers, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and most nongovernmental organizations stopped providing services."

Matteo Renzi’s new proposal on migration: Building on illegality and immorality? (GUE/NGL, link):

"GUE/NGL MEPs have strongly condemned the proposal presented by the Italian Prime Minister to extend the EU-Turkey deal on refugees to all 'countries of origin and transit'

Italian MEP, Barbara Spinelli, criticised the document presented by the Italian Government: "From the outset, the proposal of the Italian Prime Minister to the European Commission and the European Council completely neglects the fact that the agreement signed by the EU and Turkey may be illegitimate under EU and international law."

"Worse, the EU-Turkey agreement is presented as a positive model for future arrangements which could be extended to the African countries which are part of the Khartoum and Rabat processes (including states ruled by dictators such as Eritrea or Sudan), and financed with EU funds."

See: 'Migration compact non-paper' (pdf)

European Parliament: Draft report: on the proposal for a regulation establishing an EU common list of safe countries of origin for the purposes of Directive 2013/32/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection, and amending Directive 2013/32/EU (COM(2015)0452 – C8-0270/2015 – 2015/0211(COD)) Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Rapporteur: Sylvie Guillaume (pdf)

Czech police officers to help enforce EU-Turkey agreement in Greece (Radio Prague, link): "The Czech Republic is to send thirty police officers to Greece on Friday where they will help fulfill the EU’s agreement with Turkey on the return of migrants who attempt to enter the EU via Greece. The officers will be assigned to the European border agency Frontex where they will be directly involved in the process of escorting migrants back to Turkey."

Medical charity MSF restarts Mediterranean migrant rescues (Reuters, link):

"The medical relief charity Medecins sans Frontieres has relaunched rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea, accusing European governments of failing to act to save migrants in peril at sea, it said on Monday....

"The absence of a global solution to the current refugee crisis, and the European states' policies of deterrence, as well their refusal to provide alternatives to the deadly sea crossing, continue to kill thousands," said Joanne Liu, president of MSF International in a statement." (emphasis added]

IOM: Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals in 2016: 181,476: Deaths 1,232 (link): 154,491 arrivals in Greece and 25,894 in Italy.

Are You Syrious (link)

"69 new arrivals on Greek islands: "There were 69 new arrivals on Greek islands today (Monday) and the total number of refugees in Greece today numbers 45, 360 with 7,450 in the islands, 14,020 in the Attica region, 3,400 in central Greece, 300 in southern Greece and 20,190 in northern Greece...

800 in Idomeni left without water because of landlord: "No good news from #Idomeni as usual. 10,232 people still reside there. The owner of Hotel Hara has turned off all water supplies, leaving a population of over 800 including many families without water....

Austria announced temporary border control on the border with Hungary to limit the inflow of undocumented migrants: After announcing border controls on their border with Italy, Austria introduced today temporary border control on its border with Hungary to limit the inflow of undocumented migrants, local media reported. According to the Austrian newspaper Osterreich, the border controls were scheduled to apply from 8 a.m. local time. The newspaper added that the authorities plan to pay special attention to vans entering Austria from Hungary....

Norway offering money to asylum seekers to leave voluntarily: "While Germany’s policies might be questionable and cynical, Norway has gone even further. The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (Utlendingsdirektoratet—UDI) is offering a 10,000 kroner bonus to asylum seekers to leave voluntarily. UDI will offer an additional 10,000 kroner to the first 500 asylum seekers who apply for a voluntary return to their home countries. Beginning on Monday, the offer will run for six weeks on a first-come, first-served basis. “We need to entice more to voluntarily travel back by giving them a bit more money on their way out. This will save us a lot of money because it is expensive to have people in the asylum centres,” Integration Minister Sylvi Listhaug told broadcaster NRK. The offer entails giving asylum seekers an additional 10,000 kroner in travel expenses on top of the 20,000 kroner already offered....

SWEDEN: Building that was to be re-purposed into a home for refugee children set on fire in a case of arson "In other integration-gone-wrong-in-Europe story, a building that was to be repurposed into a home for refugee children has been set ablaze in a second apparent arson attack in the east of Sweden in the city of Haernoesand. Firefighters managed to contain the fire, but not before it devoured the former school building. No one was injured in the incident, though the building was totally destroyed. An investigation has been launched, while the incident was classified as an arson, according to local media."

US backs NATO blockade of Libya to close refugee route (euractiv, link):

"The United States yesterday (25 April) offered its backing for a NATO naval operation off the cost of Libya, in support of a controversial Italian plan to close the Western Mediterranean refugee route to Europe....

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi told reporters after meeting the US president and the leaders of Britain, France and Germany in Hanover, Germany...

Italian Minister of Defence Roberta Pinotti had earlier revealed that preparations for a naval blockade were already advanced, with approval expected when NATO leaders meet on 7 July in Warsaw. US officials confirmed that Washington is fully on board."

Clashes break out at migrant camp on Lesvos (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Clashes broke out between police and migrants held at a detention centre on the Greek island of Lesvos on Tuesday, a police spokesman said.

The spokesman said incidents started from a wing holding minors at the Moria camp and spread. Bins were set on fire, the spokesman said.

“Riot police are conducting an operation in and out of the camp at the moment,” the spokesman said."

News (26.4.16)

Berlin steps up efforts to expand its ‘safe list’ (euractiv, link):

"Critics have denounced Germany’s intention to put Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on a list of safe countries of origin in an attempt to reduce the number of asylum seekers coming from those countries...

Critics have denounced Germany’s intention to put Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on a list of safe countries of origin in an attempt to reduce the number of asylum seekers coming from those countries...

Human rights organisations have criticised the proposal and highlighted that not all refugees from those countries should be tarred with the same brush, as many would still be eligible for asylum. “It contradicts the basic principle of the asylum procedure,” the head of Pro Asyl, Günter Burkhardt, said."

Turkey to boost legal protection for migrants, easing EU returns (FT, link): "Ankara will bolster the legal protection it extends to non-Syrian refugees in a concession that paves the way for the EU to fully implement a deal to send back thousands of asylum seekers currently stranded in Greece"

Comment: Does this mean fully implementing the Geneva Conventioin - can we see the letter to the Commission?

How Turkey’s Promise to Stop the Flow of Refugees Is Creating a New Crisis (INYT, link): "Turkey is struggling to cope with the 2.7 million Syrians it hosts and honor its agreement to stop refugees from crossing into Europe. And renewed fighting in Syria last week pushed tens of thousands of Syrians closer to the border with Turkey, in a sign that the problem could still get worse."

Czech Republic: Graffitis in Prague probably motivated by hate (Prague Monitor, link):"The unknown perpetrators who scrawled threatening inscriptions or Nazi symbols at several places in Prague at the weekend are suspected of graffiti spread and hate-motivated crimes, police spokesman Tomas Hulan told CTK Saturday.
He said the police suspect them of damaging other's property with graffiti, inciting to hatred of another group of persons and restricting their rights and freedoms, and of the crime of sympathy for a movement aimed to suppress man's rights and freedoms. If found guilty, they face up to three years in prison.".

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (25.4.16)

Will Europe do anything to stop the drownings of migrants? (Washington Post, link): "Nothing has been done to address the causes of the exodus, however, so smugglers might shift their activities from the Turkey-Greece route to the still more dangerous passage between the North African coast and Italy. Some 6,000 mostly African refugees arrived in southern Italian ports in four days last week, according to the International Organization for Migration, bringing the total for the year to nearly 24,000. Some 800 have died along the way, the agency said , including those in the latest accident."

Europe is a moral wasteland: Countless refugees continue to die while the West turns a blind eye (Salon, link): "The European Union was “founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.”

It’s now clear that the moral posturing of the West is fraudulent.

This is of course not to suggest that other places are of better moral quality. Far from it: consider the Thai junta returning Chinese dissidents to China, the Egyptian military dictatorship’s complicity in Israel’s blockade of Gaza, the Gulf states’ systematic exploitation of guest workers, or the alleged abuses committed by Mexican agents, on behalf of the United States, against Central Americans fleeing gangster terror. The world is in large part run by mean, venal and greedy pfeople. But the next time the West invokes its moral superiority remember that they have already failed humanity’s most basic test."

2016 will be remembered as the EU's year of shame (Open Democracy, link): "For years, after the great Lampedusa shipwreck on 3 October 2013, the EU has tacitly allowed the deaths at sea of thousands of refugees fleeing towards the European coasts, having been unable to guarantee safe and legal access routes to the Union.

This year, in 2016, the EU has taken a further step towards barbarity: not only has it closed its internal borders by dismantling the Schengen area, but it has consciously decided to send refugees back to the war zones from which they had previously fled, and from which they are still escaping.

The agreement with Turkey signed on 20 March 2016, which enables the mass deportation of refugees who manage to reach Greece, cannot be interpreted in any other way. Thousands of these returnees are sent back by the Erdogan regime to the Syrian war zones from which they had initially escaped: a deportation that violates national, European and international laws."

This article is the foreword from the recent report Death by Rescue: the Lethal Effects of the EU's Policies of Non-Assistance (link)

News (25.4.16)

EU leaders' praise of Turkey triggers NGO anger (EUobserver, link): "”Turkey is the best example in the entire world of how to treat refugees”, European Council president Donald Tusk claimed on Saturday (23 April), drawing criticism from human rights organisations.

He spoke at a press conference in Gaziantep, southern Turkey, where he travelled together with German chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans.

”Nobody has the right to lecture Turkey on what you should do. I am very proud you are my partner. I am absolutely sure we will succeed. We have no other way”, Tusk said.

His statement drew applause from the conference. "

Obama questions Merkel’s idea for safe zones in Syria (New Europe, link): "US President Barack Obama has openly disagreed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the creation of “safe zones” for refugees in Syria. At a news conference in Hanover, however, the visiting president sought to smooth over any differences.

“As a practical matter, sadly, it is very difficult to see how it would operate short of us being willing to militarily take over a chunk of that country,” Obama told reporters in Hanover on April 24. “And that requires a big military commitment” to protect refugees from attacks.

As reported by Bloomberg, Merkel said safe zones couldn’t be imposed from outside but would have to come out of negotiations in Geneva to end the war, identifying areas where people can feel “particularly safe.” Obama said he agreed with that version of the proposal."

UK: Ministers urged to let in 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees (The Guardian, link): "Opposition MPs hope to inflict an embarrassing defeat on the government on Monday over its refusal to extend help to unaccompanied child refugees from Syria and other war-torn countries who are stranded in Europe.

Charities led by Save the Children are urging MPs on both sides of the house to back an amendment to the immigration bill tabled by the Labour peer Alf Dubs and passed by the House of Lords, which would force the government to accept 3,000 unaccompanied children.

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, has written to every MP urging them to support the amendment. He said: “The vote on Monday is a test of Britain’s humanity. MPs must stand up for the values and traditions that make Britain great.”"

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (23-24.4.16)
Tomorrow, we have a chance to stop the death of innocents by Rowan Williams (Gurdian, link): "During the Second World War, our parents and grandparents had no doubt: refugee children had to be given succour and safety..."

Initial Austrian presidential election results show right-wing, anti-immigrant party sweeping first round (dailysabah.com/europe, link): "The law-and-order candidate of Austria's right-wing party swept the first round of presidential elections on Sunday, gathering over 35 percent of the vote and leaving the other five candidates far behind. Among the losers were the hopefuls nominated by the government coalition, reflecting significant voter dissatisfaction with the country's political status quo."

EU-TURKEY: Remarks by President Donald Tusk during his visit to Turkey (23.4.16, pdf):

"Today Turkey is the best example in the entire world of how to treat refugees."

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments:

"Why is the EU not the best example in the entire world of how to treat refugees?"

Refugee Rights: Data Project: The Long Wait: Filling data gaps relating to refugees and displaced people in the Calais camo (link):

"Contrary to many other large refugee settlements around the world, the Calais camp is not an officially recognised refugee camp. This has left it marginalised without any statistics or data available regarding the camp, its inhabitants or their living conditions. While the existence of statistics by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is the norm elsewhere, none have been gathered in Calais.

Moreover, there is no border data, and no registration process has been put in place by the authorities. This makes it impossible to gain an indepth understanding of
the realities of life in the camp. It also means that thousands of people are ‘slipping through the net’, being left outside of the system. As a result, the people in the Calais camp are rendered incredibly vulnerable - among them a significant number of unaccompanied children".

Are You Syrious (23.4.16, link)

"Solidarity center on Chios was burned down by an unknown party:

Soli Cafe, a solidarity center on #Chios that treated refugees as equals, and has been under constant police and fascist pressure and attacks recently, was set on fire last night. Culprits are still unknown. Fortunately, gas canisters had been removed from the building in time to prevent greater damage.

Meanwhile, Vial camp on Chios is still closed for independent volunteers as well as some NGO’s trying to get in. Refugees are still being detained under Greek law for up to 25 days. Volunteers have collected multiple testimonials confirming that the food provided is of poor quality, and nutritionally insufficient. There’s lack of medical support as well....

International lawyers and translators needed!

An international network of lawyers is trying to get a grip on how asylum claims in Greece are being handled. At the moment they need support of both Greek and international colleagues to review all the refugee cases in time. Translators fluent in Greek, Arabic and Farsi are needed as well. They are also looking for friendly contacts within EASO to meet with during their legal coordination meetings. If you can help with legal expertise or you know someone who could be useful, please contact ariel.ricker@gmail.com...."

UNHCR reports (22.4/16): : 180,629 arrivals in the EU in 2016: 154,268 in Greece, 25,458 in Italy. 1,261 dead/missing

Greece: Migrant flow from Turkey to Greece picking up again: IOM (ekathimerini.com, link): "The numbers of migrants landing in Greece from Turkey is starting to creep up again, showing efforts to close off the route are coming under strain, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Friday. Around 150 people a day had arrived over the last three days, still way off the numbers seen a month ago, the organization added, but showing an increase since an EU deal with Turkey deal to stem the flow."

UNHCR: Daily Report (22.4.16:)

"In Turkey, so far (as of 18 April), 326 people were returned boat to Dikili (Turkey) since the implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement, including 202 people on 4 April and 124 people on 8 April. Main nationalities include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, India, Morocco, Egypt and Palestine. Two Syrians have been returned to date.

All non-Syrians returned by sea were referred to Kirklareli removal centre, while Syrians are transferred to Duzici camp for processing. Despite written requests, UNHCR still does not have access to them, including to the 13 persons who had expressed their wish to apply for asylum. Discussions are on-going with authorities on UNHCR’s access to removal centres."

"In Greece, on 20 April, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Economic and Social Committee of Greece and the Permanent Representation of the European Commission in Athens co-chaired a conference entitled: "Human flows and the world we share: Can Europe Tackle the Refugee and Migrant Issue?". Speaking at the conference, the Greek Alternate Defence Minister, responsible for coordinating efforts to tackle the refugee crisis, said that given the fact many people will remain in the country for one, two or more years, and rights should be granted as required; in this context, the government may consider issuing a refugee passport. The Minister also said that there are 34 operating host centers across Greece, noting that Eidomeni and Piraeus are not included in the list." [emphasis added]

Are You Sryious (22.4.16, link): "An Austrian bishop refused on Thursday to allow parts of a planned anti-migrant fence on the country's southern border with Hungary to be built on Church land. The barrier near Moschendorf, one of a number of government measures meant to be completed by June, is set to be several kilometres long but crosses two Church-owned properties. A fence "would contradict the spirit of the Gospel, Pope Francis's clear message to Europe, and in particular for a diocese that was in the shadow of the Iron Curtain for decades," said Aegidius Zsifkokvics, bishop of #Eisenstadt"

Despite deal, refugees still trickling into Greece (ekathimerini.com, link): "Despite reduced flows from Turkey, authorities say that roughly 100 refugees are still arriving daily on the Greek islands, adding to the thousands of migrants scattered in registration and reception centers throughout the country....

According to the latest official figures, there are 53,817 migrants throughout the country: 29,298 are at camps and centers in northern Greece, while in Attica there are 14,359, of which 3,294 are at the port of Piraeus.

Authorities estimate that it will take more than a month to process all the asylum applications submitted.... Afghans have repeatedly protested what they say is preferential treatment given to Syrians."

When we mourn the passing of Prince but not 500 migrants, we have to ask: have we lost all sense of perspective? (Independent, link) by Robert Fisk: "Could not one of those dead children among the five hundred souls on the sinking Mediterranean boat become a ‘superstar’? "

News (23-24.4.16)

Angela Merkel to launch EU aid programme for Syrians on Turkey visit (Guardian link): £German chancellor will attend photocall with Ahmet Davutoglu at refugee camp in Gaziantep amid concerns over her policy....In exchange for Turkish acquiescence, Europe has promised looser visa restrictions for Turks travelling to Europe and agreed to accelerate negotiations over Turkey’s proposed accession to the EU... But Merkel and her European colleagues have been accused of pandering too much to Turkey, amid calls for stronger international criticism of the government’s crackdown on political opponents."

Rumour: Is the Relocation Program Real? (News That Moves, link)

UK: David Cameron faces knife-edge vote on child refugee policy (Observer, link): "Tory MPs join chorus of calls for UK to admit more unaccompanied young people fleeing war-torn homelands"

Babies Detained in Refugee Centers on Greek Island “Not Getting Adequate Milk” (Press Project, link): "Asylum seekers who are held in a detention center in Chios claim babies under six months old are being given only 100ml of milk a day"

Czech Republic: Migrant crisis fuelling negative sentiments towards foreigners and the EU (Radio, Praha, link)

Refugee crisis: the ugly truth behind the cynical EU-Turkey deal (FIDH< link): " March 18 2016, European Union leaders and Turkey struck a shameful deal providing for fast-track procedures aimed at returning ‘all new irregular migrants’ reaching the Greek islands after March 20 who do not have a legitimate asylum claim back to Turkey and an infamous ‘migrant swap’."

Swiss halt Muslim family's citizenship process after refusal to shake hands (Daily Sabah, link): "As anti-immigration sentiment increases across Europe, Switzerland has suspended the citizenship process of a Muslim family after brothers refused to shake female teachers' hands, saying it violates their beliefs."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (22.4.16)
By being tough on migration Europe can also be humane Donald Tusk Only strong and stable states can react to this crisis. We were helpless, but the new three-pronged strategy is working (Guardian, link) and:

Donald Tusk: EU needs ‘tough’ migration policies (politico, link): "Tusk defended more recent EU actions to tighten border controls and stop the flow of refugees, saying they were necessary to stop growing “radical, populist, often nationalist sentiment” that had led to “apocalyptic prophesies and questions about the future of Europe.”"

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments:

"The President of the Council of the European Union, demonstrates a bizarre logic. If refugees are not stopped, and denied their right to ask for asylum, this will lead to "radical, populate, often nationalistic sentiment" - so the racists and nationalist win and determine EU policy. This is a blatant abdication of responsibility to uphold and enforce the purported fundamental values of the EU as set out in the Treaty and the Charter."

Volunteer stories: 'I will never forget how cold the little boy’s body was I carried that day' (Guardian, link): "From burying the dead in Lesbos to saving desperate refugees from traffickers in Budapest, volunteers share their stories of responding to one of Europe’s worst humanitarian crises.

Across Europe, volunteers have been moved to act to help refugees seeking safety; from sea rescues, to teaching languages. Here, volunteers share stories from their involvement over the past months, revealing the emotional cost of this vast humanitarian crisis as it has unfolded"

Are You Syrious (21.4.16, link)

"Nearly 54 thousand refugees are currently located on Greek territory, according to the Greek Government. The highest concentration of refugees is still recorded in Idomeni, with 10,257 refugees inside the camp. Even though NATO’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said today that the number of refugees crossing the Aegean Sea into Europe is significantly lower, new arrivals are still recorded on a daily basis. According to the Greek Government, 196 new arrivals were recorded on Lesvos and 18 on Samos until 7:30 AM today"

"As we reported yesterday, the “administrative restriction” process for asylum applicants on Lesvos and Chios is in theory in effect as of Monday. This means that refugees cannot be detained in registration centers after 25 days since their asylum applications take longer than that to process. However, refugees from ?#?Moria? camp on Lesvos have not heard of anyone leaving the camp so far. Similarly, volunteers from ?#?Vial? camp on Chios report that the authorities there have not opened the camp. Earlier today, refugees themselves broke free from Vial camp. For now, they are free to come and go from the inside to outside of the camp. All of the NGOs active on site are having meetings on how to handle the situation. The atmosphere is described as tense by the volunteers."

" The Supreme Administrative Court in Finland has overturned the decision to return Afghani asylum seekers to Hungary. The decision to return the asylum seekers was made by the Finnish Immigration Service and the Administrative Court of Helsinki. Before coming to Finland, the asylum seekers arrived in Hungary via Serbia and applied for asylum in Hungary in September 2014. According to the Supreme Administrative Court, there was a genuine threat that the asylum seekers would be deported from Hungary back to Serbia, if they were to be sent back."

"On the initiative of Greek Foreign Minister, a quadripartite meeting between Foreign Ministers and Interior Ministers of Greece, Albania, Bulgaria and Macedonia is being held in Thessaloniki, April 21-22 with the focus on border cooperation. They will discuss the main challenges of migration and regional cooperation in the field of border management, combating trafficking and terrorist networks and management of the refugee crisis."

EU: Killing by Omission (EJIL: Talk!, link): "On Monday, the Forensic Architecture team at Goldsmith College, London, published Death by Rescue. The report exposes a rather complex set of facts, but the basic argument is as simple as it is alarming.

Operation Triton, facilitated by Europe’s border security agency, Frontex, began on 1 November 2014 and is mandated to enforce Italy’s maritime border. Triton replaced an earlier and much wider Italian Navy operation, Mare Nostrum, which began in October 2013 and was mandated to save migrant lives beyond Italy’s territorial waters. When EU officials decided on the more limited scope of Triton, they knew their decision would result in the drowning of numerous migrants. As one Frontex official wryly noted, “the withdrawal of naval assets from the area, if not properly planned and announced well in advance, would likely result in a higher number of fatalities.” But the European Commission turned a blind eye – leading to a spike in migrant deaths, which the authors, Charles Heller and Lorenzo Pezzani meticulously document.

From a legal perspective, this set of circumstances raises the question whether the migrants’ rights were violated, and if so, whether EU actors can be held legally accountable. In my view, the report exposes no illegal activity by European agents, either at the operational or at the policymaking level. Perhaps more troubling, the report raises the specter of unaccountable violence ingrained in the very structure of international law. If international law is somehow to blame for circumstances that made these utterly preventable deaths possible, then perhaps it is law itself that should be indicted."

An article examining the legal implications of the Death by Rescue reported released earlier this week. See: Summary of report: Death by Rescue - The lethal effects of the EU's policies of non-assistance at sea (pdf) and the full report (link).

Finnish court suspends Dublin returns to Hungary

"Finland’s Supreme Administrative Court recently ruled that returning an Afghan asylum seeker to Hungary was problematic because of the country’s asylum procedures.

The court declared that deporting asylum seekers via Serbia threatened the fundamental rights of people seeking international protection. As a result of the Court’s decision the Finnish Immigration Service has suspended asylum seeker returns to Hungary.

The Afghan asylum seeker had come to Finland by way of Hungary and Serbia. The Supreme Administrative Court deemed that there is a risk that the man would be deported from Hungary to Serbia and from there to Afghanistan without having any authorities assess his asylum application or his need for international protection. Hungary is the only EU country that considers Serbia to be safe for asylum seekers and returns them there.

The Court determined that there are major problems with Hungary’s asylum procedures. It pointed to large numbers of asylum applications, difficulties in providing legal guidance and other problems facing asylum seekers in Hungary. It said that these factors made it impossible to be clear if the man’s return to Serbia and other third countries would be stopped or deferred."

See: Finland suspends asylum seeker returns to Hungary following higher court ruling (YLE, link). Hungary is the second EU country to which asylum-seekers can no longer be returned from Finland. A previous court ruling saw returns to Greece suspended.

From September 2012: Serbia is "no longer a safe third country" but Commission says that readmission "functions smoothly" (Statewatch News Online)

Press release: Readmissions from Greece to Turkey: What Happens After Readmission? (Mülteci Der, link): "Mülteci-Der lawyer went to the RC [Removal Centre] in Pehlivanköy-Kirklareli and demanded to meet with the returned detainees. Although the lawyer insisted on her request for 2 days, in the end her request was refused by Kirklareli Provincial Migration Management (PDMM) based on an order given to by the Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM) in Ankara. The lawyer was prevented from seeing the detainees and the law was violated on the ground that “the DGMM has a working group on readmitted people and until they finalize their work, returned people shall not be allowed to meet with lawyers or anybody else”. By preventing lawyers from meeting with detainees arbitrarily and without any legal basis, the administration violated the law and once again the rule of law was not respected."

Migration Maps (Occupied Times, link): "In 2013, Group 484 invited several artists to work with asylum seekers in an asylum centre near the village of Bogovadja, near Valjevo. At that time, the number of migrants in Serbia was not nearly as large as it is today. The issue of migration, except in the narrow circles of activists and individual organisations, was neither visible nor topical. In Bogovadja we met people from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Eritrea, Guinea, Senegal, Syria while they were spending days in the centre, reporting to the police station upon entering Serbia illegally and expressing their intention to seek asylum.

We did not want to frame people as victims, avoiding the prism of humanitarian paternalism which is often the basis of art projects, but as courageous people who, by the very fact that they had decided to set out on such a journey, made a radical change in their life – fleeing war, conflicts and poverty. We were interested when, how and where they had been travelling before we met them. We asked why they had embarked on such a journey, what troubles they had survived, how they had crossed borders, what their experiences were with police and people in the countries they had passed through.

Together we sketched maps, piecing together their routes, which in some cases had taken up to 7 years. Sometimes the maps lack detail or are unclear, and sometimes they would skip parts of the journey.

We wanted to show their routes factually, and thus draw attention to Europe’s inhumane asylum policy."

Teaming up: four-country discussions on migration and refugees

Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, Macedonia to Discuss Migrant Crisis (Novinite, link): "Interior and foreign ministers of Bulgaria, Greece, Albania and Macedonia are to meet in Thessaloniki on Thursday and Friday to discuss possible measures to control the migrant inflow into Europe.

The meeting has been called by Greece's top diplomat, Nikos Kotzias. (...)

Bulgaria and other Greek neighbors for their part fear the numbers of migrants trying to enter their territories will rise this spring and summer."

And: CZECH REPUBLIC: PM rejects permanent refugee redistribution mechanism (Prague Monitor, link): "Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) told the Czech Chamber of Deputies yesterday he disagreed with the creation of a permanent mechanism redistributing refugees among EU countries and a transition of the powers relating to asylum to the European Commission.

These are efforts to federalise the asylum policy, Sobotka said. (...)

Sobotka said he wanted to prepare a joint position of the Visegrad Four (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) to the EC proposal.

"There is a big chance of our proceeding jointly," Sobotka said, adding that the Czech Republic would look for other allies, too, in support of its stand."

News (22.4.16)

New ‘European Border Guard’ system to be agreed by 30 June (euractiv, link): "EU interior ministers formally agreed yesterday (21 April) on a proposal for a new border and coastguard force that could intervene in under-pressure countries like Greece to slow the influx of migrants."

Idomeni: Syrian refugee hit by police van dies in hospital (News That Moves, link):

"The Syrian refugee who was hit by a police van on Monday, died in Papageorgiou hospital in Thessaloniki Thursday noon. The man suffered severe injuries in the head, the doctors could not save him.

Officially the Greek police says that it was an accident. According to Greek police, the man was fixing something on his tent in Idomeni camp, he lost his balance and fell on the side of the police van. The van driver was a 46-year-old policeman. The exact causes of the accident are been investigated by the Traffic Police of Kilkis..."

Merkel sees drop of refugees as an ‘opportunity’ (euractiv, link): "German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday (21 April) that fewer asylum seekers were now reaching European shores, giving EU nations a chance to shore up plans to protect the continent’s outer borders."

Czech Police Detain Afghan Migrants in Bulgarian-Registered Van (Novinite, link): "Czech police have detained 26 illegal migrants from Afghanistan in a Bulgarian-registered van close to the border with Germany, Czech media reported on Thursday.

The irregular migrants – 11 men, five women and 10 children – were detained near the town of Domažlice, some 20 km from the Czech Republic’s border with Germany, Radio Prague said, citing the Minister of the Interior Milan Chovanec.

The migrants had said they planned to seek asylum in Germany.

The driver of the Peugeot Boxer van and his companion, who is suspected of being the mastermind of the people trafficking, have escaped. The Czech police has launched a search for them."

CZECH REPUBLIC: Iraqi Christians return home from Czech Republic (Prague Daily Monitor, link): "A group of 16 Iraqi Christian refugees who wanted to leave the Czech Republic for Germany last week departed for Iraq this afternoon, said Kiril Christov, spokesman for the Refugee Facilities Administration of the Czech Interior Ministry.

"All of them agreed with the voluntary return and all of them boarded the plane. Everything went well," Christov told CTK."

CZECH REPUBLIC: Migrant crisis fuelling negative sentiments towards foreigners and the EU (Radio Prague, link): "The migrant crisis is making Czechs increasingly wary of foreigners. According to a recent poll conducted by the STEM agency, the number of people who think an ethnic group or minority should have the right to live in the Czech Republic according to its own traditions has dropped by almost a half to 25 percent in the past two years. Only 25 percent of respondents now say requests for Czech citizenship should be granted without regard to nationality or ethnicity. And three quarters of Czechs consider foreigners to be a security threat. For this week’s Panorama I spoke to the head of the STEM polling agency, sociologist Jan Hartl, about how the crisis has changed attitudes to foreigners and even to the country’s next door neighbours."

Two survivors from Ethiopia and Somalia tell of mystery migrant shipwreck (Deutsche Welle, link): "An Ethiopian and a Somali man say they were on two boats heading to Italy from Libya when one of the vessels sank. The UN refugee agency says up to 500 people may have drowned in the tragedy.

Visibly shaken from their ordeal, the two men - 25-year-old Muaz Mahmoud Aymo and 28-year-old Mowlid Isman - described how they were among 200 people aboard a small boat when smugglers forced them onto a larger vessel, which already had 300 people on board.

"When we moved to that boat, the big boat fell into the water and my baby (of) two months and my 21-year-old wife, and all died in the middle of the ocean," Aymo told reporters at the offices of the Greek charity Praxis.

"Only 41 made it, we swam to save our lives to the small boat. And I saved two persons," he added.

The two said although they managed to get back on board the smaller boat, the smuggler refused to wait and help others struggling in the sea."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (21.4.16)

EU: Legal Analysis: Migrants in Greece are denied the rights to international protection and family unity. The visit to the camps in Idomeni and government-run camps, and a legal analysis of the situation we observed. (pdf) prepared by ASGI, Italy

"A delegation of eight participants in the course of the “Advanced training school for legal operators specialised in international protection” organised by ASGI in Rome alongside legal operators from the ADL Zavidovici association, the K-Pax cooperative, the Idea Prisma 82 cooperative and the Alternata cooperative travelled to Greece within the framework of the #overthefortress caravan organised by Melting Pot and the Ambasciata dei Diritti delle Marche to observe the legal conditions of migrants in the camp in Idomeni and the government-run camps in the vicinity. The monitoring was also carried out with the help of mediators from the caravan.
On 26 and 27 March, we visited the Idomeni camp and interviewed the foreign citizens who were there, as well as some international organisations."

Translation by Statewatch. The original version (in Italian) of the report "Idomeni, un'analisi giuridica sui diritti negati ai migranti" is available on the ASGI website

Council of Europe: Parliamentary Assembly: Daniel Mitov: ‘Migration is not a threat to our democracies, but intolerance and hatred are (Press release, link): "

“Governments and political leaders should refrain from using xenophobic rhetoric linking migrants to social problems or security risks, thereby making the integration of the few migrants staying in the country even more problematic”, said Daniel Mitov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria and Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, addressing the Assembly today.

“Migration is not a threat to our democracies, but intolerance and hatred do represent such a threat”, he added, highlighting the responsibility of the international community to improve the difficult humanitarian situation and to protect migrants’ human rights."

European Parliament Briefing: Regulation 604/2013 (Dublin Regulation) and asylum procedures in Europe (pdf)

Council of Europe anti-torture Committee visits “hotspots” in Greece (link)

"Strasbourg, 20.04.2016 - A delegation of the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) carried out an ad hoc visit to Greece from 13 to 18 April 2016.

The purpose of the visit was to examine the situation of foreign nationals deprived of their liberty in the recently established “Reception and Identification Centres” (so-called “hotspots”). Particular attention was paid to the treatment, conditions, regime, health-care services and legal safeguards offered to them. To this end, the delegation visited the Moria “hotspot” on Lesvos and the VIAL “hotspot” on Chios and spoke in private with foreign nationals (including families, unaccompanied children and other vulnerable groups) held in both centres. It also visited Mytilini police station on Lesvos and Chios police station and the coast guard detention facility on Chios."

UNHCR reports: 196 refugees arrived in Lesvos yesterday

"In Greece, 134 people arrived on average to the islands in April. There are currently 46,333 people located on the mainland and 7,645 on the islands. Of those on the islands, 5,844 have expressed intention to apply for asylum as of the 18 April. Of the 2,671 relocation requests, 860 transfers took place so far. A total of 3,288 pledges have been made available by EU Member States as of 19 April."  The latter figure of 3,288 is down 949 on the number of pledges as 1 April 2016.

On Tuesday, a UNHCR team interviewed survivors of what could be one of the worst tragedies involving refugees and migrants in the last 12 months. If confirmed, as
many as 500 people may have lost their lives when a large ship went down in the Mediterranean Sea at an unknown location between Libya and Italy. The 41 survivors (37 men, three women and a three-year-old child) were rescued by a merchant ship and taken to Kalamata, in the Peloponnese peninsula of Greece on 16 April. Those rescued include 23 Somalis, 11 Ethiopians, 6 Egyptians and a Sudanese."

Mediterranean migrant disaster gets muted response (euobserver, link):

"Up to 500 are feared to have drowned off the Libyan coast while trying to cross to Europe, the UN’s refugee agency said on Wednesday (20 April), but a muted response to the tragedy suggests empathy is dwindling across the continent.

UNHCR said the 41 survivors, 37 men, three women and a three-year-old child were rescued by merchant ships and taken to Kalamata, Greece on 16 April. The survivors included Somalis, Ethiopians, Egyptians and Sudanese."

Council of Europe condemns EU's refugee deal with Turkey (Guardian, link):

"Human rights body says agreement at worst breaks international law and progress on integrating refugees is ‘shamefully slow’...

The EU-Turkey agreement “at best strains and at worst exceeds the limits of what is permissible under European and international law”, states the report by the Dutch parliamentarian Tineke Strik. “Even on paper, it raises many serious questions of compatibility with basic norms on refugees’ and migrants’ rights. It has so far given every indication of being even more problematic in practice.”" [emphasis added]

And see Report: The situation of refugees and migrants under the EU-Turkey Agreement of 18 March 2016 (pdf): Report: Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons Rapporteur: Ms Tineke STRIK, Netherlands, Socialist Group and Press release (link)

News (21.4.16)

EU-Turkey refugee pact leads to fatal Libya crossings (New Europe, link): "As reported by Bloomberg, however, the EU-Turkey deal is forcing people smugglers to switch routes. This is based on the United Nations report that 500 migrants travelling between Libya and Italy may have drowned last week."

Migrant camp near Athens poses public health risk, say five mayors (ekathimerini.com, link): "Five mayors of Athens's coastal suburbs warned Wednesday of the "enormous" health risks posed by a nearby camp housing over 4,000 migrants and refugees. "The conditions are out of control and present enormous risks to the public health," the mayors complained in a letter to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, in reference to the camp at Elliniko, the site of Athens's old airport. A total of 4,153 people, including many families, have been held there for the last month in miserable conditions."

Ankara denies entry to German journalist (euractiv, link):

"Turkish authorities at Istanbul airport denied entry yesterday (20 April) to a German public television journalist who arrived from Cairo and planned to travel to the Turkey-Syria border, the ARD broadcaster said.

ARD journalist Volker Schwenck announced his detention on Twitter and posted a picture of an entry ban letter given to him by authorities with the headline in Turkish and English: “Inadmissible Passenger Notification Report.”"

Burying drowned migrants is part of a broader Greek problem (Ecomonist, link)

EU states grow wary as Turkey presses for action on visas pledge (FT, link)

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (20.4.16)

Syrian children shot dead by Turkish border guards (Times, link):

"Eight Syrians, most of them women and children, have been killed by Turkish border guards while fleeing their war-torn homeland.

The group was trying to cross into Turkey via a mountain smuggling route at the western end of the frontier when they were pushed back by Turkish forces firing live rounds. Mobile phone footage obtained by The Times shows a man carrying his young son, who has been shot in both legs, back down the winding mountain path in the hope of reaching medical help..." and

Turkish border guards shoot DEAD eight Syrians including women and children as they try to flee their war-torn homeland (Daily Mail, link)

EU: Commission (20.4,16):

- Managing the Refugee Crisis: Commission reports on implementation of EU-Turkey Statement (Press release, pdf)

First Report on the progress made in the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement (COM 231-16, pdf)

Annex to Com 231-16: funding (pdf)

Implementing the EU-Turkey Agreement – Questions and Answers (pdf)

- Operational implementation of the EU-Turkey Agreement including number of "returns" (pdf)

EU: Justice and Home Affairs Council, 21 April, Luxembourg: Background Note (pdf)

Includes: European Border Guard, IT systems for Security and Borders, Databases (Ministers will also discuss the systematic feeding and consistent use of European and international databases), Reform of the Common European Asylum System and Migration (Home affairs ministers will hold an exchange of views on several migration-related issues, and in particular the implementation of the 17-18 March 2016 European Council conclusions and the implementation of the EU-Turkey statement of 18 March 2016).

EU to propose visa-free travel for Turks May 4 if terms met (ekathimerini.com, link):

"The European Union's executive said on Wednesday it will propose on May 4 granting Turks visa-free travel to the bloc from late June in a deal under which it is to stop uncontrolled migration into Europe - provided Ankara meets the remaining conditions....

The Commission did not say how many of the 72 benchmarks for visa liberalisation Turkey has yet to complete but it pointed to several areas where work remains to be done."

Statewatch: State of Play: Commission statistics (dated 18 April 2016): Hotspots, Returns, Pledges and Civil Protection

EU shirks refugee relocation responsibility (DW, link): "EU member states are failing to live up to their promises to ease pressure on Greece and Italy at the forefront of the refugee crisis, with asylum seekers paying the price. Pavlos Zafiropoulos reports from Athens."

Greece: Asylum Applicants No Longer Detained in Registration Centers on Greek Islands (Greek Reporter, link):

"As of Monday, the “administrative restriction” process for asylum applicants on Lesvos and Chios is in effect, meaning that they cannot be detained in registration centers after 25 days. The migrants are gradually free to leave the hotspots since their asylum applications take longer than 25 days to process.

The migrants released from the registration centers are given a specific document that says their asylum application is in process and they cannot leave the island until there is a decision on their case."

Turkey: Open Border to Displaced Syrians Shelled by Government - No Escape for Thousands Fleeing Attacks on Border Camps (HRW, link): "(Istanbul) – Syrian military attacks on armed opposition groups near the Turkish border hit two displaced persons camps on April 13 and 15, 2016, causing at least 3,000 people to flee, although they were unable to cross the border to safety, Human Rights Watch said today."

Bulgaria tries to restrain its vigilante “migrant hunters” (Economist, link): "Rights groups demand that Bulgaria’s government bring illegal border-policing groups under control."

News (20.4.16)

Fire in Greek camp burns more than a dozen tents (ekathimerini.com, link): "A fire broke out in a refugee camp in northern Greece Wednesday, burning more than a dozen tents and sparking a protest by refugees. Police said at least two people were taken to a hospital suffering from smoke inhalation."

Turkey and EU hail successes of migrant deal (euobserver, link)

PEGIDA founder dragged before German court (euractiv, link): "Lutz Bachmann, one of the founders of the German xenophobic PEGIDA movement, was put on trial in Dresden yesterday (18 April). The prosecution accuses him of having repeatedly harassed refugees and migrants on social media and inciting hatred. EurActiv Germany reports."

Turkey and EU hail successes of migrant deal (euobserver, link): "The EU commission and Turkey have praised their controversial migrant deal for breaking the business model of the people smugglers and decreasing the number of migrants travelling to Europe. EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu talked about the deal at the Council of Europe on Tuesday (19 April), a day before the EU’s executive was due to unveil its first assessment of the agreement."

Germany arrests refugee shelter fire suspects (euobserver, link): "German authorities on Tuesday arrested five people suspected of setting refugee shelters on fire. “With today’s operation, the security authorities have dealt a powerful blow to a regional right-wing terrorist group,” said interior minister Thomas de Maiziere. The early morning police raids took place in Saxony."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (19.4.16)

UN chief slams 'deeply worrying' attacks on refugees (ekathimerini.com. link):

"UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday denounced rising attacks on migrants and refugees, calling for “political will” to resolve the root causes of Europe’s worst migration crisis in decades.

“The continuing increase in anti-migrant and anti-refugee rhetoric and violent attacks against these communities... across all Europe is deeply worrying,” Ban told a press conference in The Hague. “These actions in divided communities sow instability and betray the values and human rights standards that underpin international solidarity.”

Are You Syrious (link)

Croatia: Criminalsing helping refugees: "Today, a public discussion panel was held in Zagreb, organized by the Center for Peace Studies and the Welcome Initiative. The panel was held with the aim of discussing the changes of the Law on foreigners. Special focus was placed on trying to make a joint effort through conversation with Ministry of Interior representatives on curbing the newly introduced provision of the law that institutes the criminalization of solidarity (referring to any category of helping the foreigner without valid permission to stay in Croatia). The changes would criminalize helping the foreigners that are in so called 'illegal' status unless they are in mortal danger. Many of the organizations, including the ombudsman office see this provision as something that should be changed in order to better work together on integration and prevention of trafficking and/or exploiting migrant workers. The changes to the law should be applied from July this year, but hopefully with many amended clauses. "

Sprious reasoning to exclude Afghans from EU relocation scheme: rights are not based on percentages: "If you were wondering why Afghans are not yet eligible for EU’s relocation program, News that moves reported today the calculations of EASO that state that the program applies to nationalities who have an average EU-wide asylum recognition rate equal to or higher than 75%, on the basis of EUROSTAT data for the previous quarter. Eligible nationalities are updated quarterly. Afghans have an asylum recognition rate lower than 75% EU-wide, therefore they are not eligible. Currently, nationals or stateless persons who are residents in of Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, Burundi, Central African Republic, Costa Rica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Bahrain, Maldives, and British overseas countries and territories are eligible to participate to the relocation programme."

Save The Children: Shortage Of Shelter For Refugee Children (News that moves, link)

"According to Save The Children, more than 1,500 refugee children in Greece have currently no safe shelter and many of them are being held in detention centres and police cells. The Independent newspaper reports that only 477 sheltered spaces are available for unaccompanied refugee children in Greece at the moment.

Spokesperson for Save the Children, Sacha Myers, said “we estimate that there are at least 2,000 unaccompanied children in Greece – we know there are hundreds, potentially thousands more.” According to the law, refugees “can only stay in a detention centre for 25 days and then need to be moved to a more permanent shelter, but because they’re full, the children are either staying in detention or being moved into police cells,” Myers said.

According to UNHCR, currently more than 22,000 refugee and migrant children are stranded in Greece. Of that total, unaccompanied and separated children represent about 10 percent of all refugee and migrant children in Greece"

Death by Rescue: THE LETHAL EFFECTS OF THE EU’S POLICIES OF NON-ASSISTANCE (full report, link) and Foreword: DEATH BY (FAILURE TO) RESCUE (link) by by Barbara Spinelli, Member of the European Parliament (European United Left/Nordic Green Left Parliamentary Group):

"Looking back—as the Forensic Oceanography report requires us to do—we have an idea of how in just two and a half years, we have passed from hypocritical declarations on Lampedusa to active indifference in front of the 350 children drowned at sea following the death of Alan Kurdi, as if this were a natural catastrophe that does not affect the political sphere. The more European institutions have talked about rights and humanity, the more they have proceeded towards a subtraction of means, personnel, financial assistance for search and rescue, engaging in agreements with Third Countries not reliable from the point of view of respect for fundamental rights (the Rabat and Karthoum processes) and in the deliberate and shameless outsourcing of refoulement culminating in the EU-Turkey agreement."

Council of Europe: Parliamentary Assembly: Urgent debate on the situation of refugees and migrants under the EU-Turkey Agreement (link): "The Assembly decided also to hold, on Wednesday 20, an urgent procedure debate on “The situation of refugees and migrants under the EU-Turkey Agreement of 18 March 2016”

EU/Greece: First Turkey Deportations Riddled With Abuse (HRW, link):

"The first round of European Union-sanctioned deportations of 66 people from the Greek island of Chios to Turkey on April 4, 2016 was rushed, chaotic, and violated the rights of those deported, Human Rights Watch said today. In Turkey, the detained deportees lost contact with family and friends held in Greece, and Turkish authorities have not allowed visits by rights groups or the United Nations.

“In the mad dash to start the deportations deal with Turkey, the European Union and Greece tossed rights to the wind, including for people who wanted to seek asylum,” said Fred Abrahams, Human Rights Watch associate director for program. “The abusive deportations expose the fundamental flaws in the EU’s expedited mass returns to a country that cannot be considered safe.”

EU-LIBYA-MED: Council conclusions on Libya (pdf):

"The EU stands ready to offer security sector support in response to possible GNA requests. Should a Libyan request be forthcoming and following consultations with the Libyans, a possible civilian CSDP mission could support Libyan efforts inter alia through advice and capacity building in the fields of police and criminal justice including on counter-terrorism, border management, countering irregular migration and smuggling of migrants and trafficking of human beings, as part of broader Security Sector Reform support. This possible mission could draw upon the existing planning capacity of EUBAM Libya. In addition to the possible civilian mission, further consideration will also be given to support that can be provided through EUNAVFOR MED Sophia, by enhancing its capacity to disrupt the business model of human smugglers and trafficking networks and to contribute to broader security in support to the legitimate Libyan authorities, for example through potential capacity building for the Libyan Coastguard, and the implementation of international law."

EU set to upgrade naval mission in Mediterranean (FT, link): "Europe’s governments signalled they are ready to expand the role of an EU naval mission in the Mediterranean, as the bloc braces itself for an expected surge in the number of asylum seekers seeking to make the dangerous sea crossing from north Africa. The EU is under pressure to find solutions ahead of a likely influx this summer of people setting off for Europe from the coast of Libya and neighbouring countries."

EU navies prepare to start work in Libyan waters (euobserver, link): "The EU is to make plans for posting security experts to Libya and for moving its naval operation into Libyan waters following initial talks with the country’s new government. "

UNHCR Daily Report (18.4.16):

"On the Greek island of Lesvos, those remaining at informal sites (Olive Grove and Tsamakis) were taken to Moria for registration by police forces. They had arrived prior to 20 March when the EU-Turkey agreement came into force. As of 15 April, of the 7,216 people present on the Greek islands, at least 5,380 expressed their intent to seek asylum....

The media reports that over 400 people drowned in the Mediterranean after several overcrowded boats capsized whilst crossing from Egypt to Italy or Greece in the past few days...

Between 11-15 April, some 287 people were apprehended at Turkey’s land borders and 130 were intercepted or rescued along the Turkey’s sea borders, according to the Turkish Coast Guard."

News (19.4.16)

Turkish PM issues EU visa ultimatum (euobserver, link): "Turkey's prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu has warned the migrant swap deal with the EU risks collapse unless visa restrictions are lifted on Turkish nationals by June as planned. "I maintain my belief that, god willing, we will have the visa exemption in June. In the absence of that, then of course no-one can expect Turkey to adhere to its commitments," he said on Monday (18 April) in Ankara."

Austria’s neighbours fear more border controls (euractiv, link): "While increased people-trafficking has been recorded in eastern Austria, increased border controls in the west, specifically at the Brenner Pass, continue to be mooted. EurActiv Germany reports.

Although Hungarian authorities have made their zero-tolerance stance on migrants clear, more people are coming from that direction into Austria. Guided by smugglers, they enter Austria and Germany in minibuses and vans. This month, 24 traffickers and 520 refugees have been apprehended in Burgenland, the easternmost region of the alpine republic.."

Migrant crisis: Hundreds dead after capsize, say survivors (BBC News, link)

Migrants reoccupy border rail crossing (ekathimerini.com, link)::"An attempt by the Greek Police (ELAS) Monday to halt a month-long migrants’ protest on the railway line connecting Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was short-lived as the protesters returned to the site shortly after the police intervention. The railway line opened for a short while in the morning after police peacefully removed the migrants from the area. But the migrants did not stay away for long. They returned with their tents and rolled large stones onto the railway tracks."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (18.4.16)

Greek police fails to control situation after unsuccessful Idomeni railway clearing operation (New Europe, link): "Refugees reoccupy Idomeni railway tracks shortly after being peacefully removed by near Greece – Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) fence border railway tracks.

Riot police dispersed refugees and migrants from the rail track early on Monday morning, to have them hours later return and recamp at the very same site. Meanwhile, the Hellenic Centre for Disease Control & Prevention (KEELPNO), raises the alarm on serious health risks on Idomeni and Piraeus camps. Mange and other skin diseases have been reported, together with widespread while cases of gastroenteritis and food poisoning, as food and water are exposed to April’s rising temperatures."

UK: A safe haven? Britain's role in protecting people on the move (pdf): "Across Europe, people who have fled human rights violations, conflict, violence and hardship are living in inhumane conditions, and thousands have drowned trying to reach the continent. The current humanitarian crisis is the result of political failure. The dominant response, based on deterrence and containment, is causing enormous suffering to some of the world’s most vulnerable people. While the UK government has been a leader in providing assistance to countries hosting large numbers of refugees, it has fallen short of its moral responsibility to provide safe routes to protection for people seeking refuge in the UK, and has failed to advocate for an approach that protects the rights of all people on the move."

Press release: 13 aid and refugee agencies say UK is failing in its responsibility to protect most vulnerable people displaced by conflict (Freedom From Torture, link): "Freedom from Torture, along with Oxfam, the British Refugee Council, the International Rescue Committee (IRC-UK) and ten other agencies say it’s not enough for the UK government to provide aid for refugees in countries like Lebanon and Jordan. The UK has an obligation to offer a safe haven to its fair share of refugees and do all it can to ensure protection for people on the move, whatever their legal status."

The Orban Plan: protect borders, not people

EU: PM Orbán Presents “Schengen 2.0” Plan To Protect Europe’s Borders (Hungary Today, link): "Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has presented a ten-point proposal package on the protection of the European Union’s external borders and free movement within the community at a meeting of centrist democratic parties in Lisbon, Portugal.

The Hungarian leader’s Schengen 2.0 plan aims to protect external borders, as opposed to the European Commission’s proposal on managing the migrant crisis, which is an attempt to reform the asylum system. Mr. Orbán disclosed his plan on Friday at the Centrist Democrat International (CDUI)’s meeting in the Portuguese capital on Friday. The plan is necessary because the EU is endeavouring to reform the asylum system, while Hungary’s position is that it is the borders that have to be protected, the Hungarian Prime Minister, who is also a vice chairman of the centre-right group, argued. In the coming weeks, the Hungarian government is sending the action plan to Visegrád countries and Prime Ministers of other EU member states, while Mr. Orbán will explain his proposals in person in Germany next week and in several other European countries in the upcoming period."

And see: Orban will tour EU capitals with ‘Schengen 2.0’ plan (EurActiv, link): "Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will tour EU capitals to push for a 10-point plan for the protection of EU’s external borders and free movement within the community, dubbed ‘Schengen 2.0’."

EU: Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP): migration control to take more prominence in overseas missions

A paper produced by the European External Action Service in February 2016 provides an overview of current CFSP missions and sets out possibilities for their future development. Key issues are ensuring that missions take into account the requirements of EU migration and counter-terrorism policy, and the paper notes overall that: "there will likely be needs to intensify CFSP actions in support of Third States, either via projects implemented by civilian CSDP missions or through dedicated CFSP projects. This will also require additional staffing, skills and expertise in project management." Several hundred million euros are currently available for ongoing and future CSDP missions.

See: European External Action Service, CFSP budget orientations for 2016 and 2017 (doc. 6383/16, 22 February 2016, pdf) and COR 1 (pdf)

On migration, the paper notes:

"Migration is at the heart of the political debate in the EU and, for a few years now, is one of the strategic priorities of the external relations of the Union. The ongoing refugee crisis has put discussions on refugees and irregular migration on top of political agenda of the EU. The EU has not only set up a military CSDP operation EUNAVFOR MED Sophia, but also taken significant steps together with its neighbours and partners by creating a set of measures and action plans to jointly meet the challenges. Civilian CSDP missions in the concerned regions may need to be further reinforced with migration dimension and experts, as it was the case in 2015 of EUCAP Sahel Niger."

On "radical and terrorist organizations":

"Destabilization by radical and terrorist organizations is already partly addressed through notably CSDP missions assisting with capacity building in Mali and Niger. Pending the evolution of the fragile regional environment, additional experts and assets could possibly be requested to reinforce CSDP missions."

The paper is structured by the following headings: CFSP and CSDP in the changing global security environment; Future CSDP; Conclusions; Annex I - Current CSDP missions and mid-term forecast; Annex II - Possible non-proliferation and disarmament projects.

Greece: Europe must shoulder the burden for 46,000 refugees and migrants trapped in squalor (Amnesty, link): "With all eyes focused on the implementation of the recently agreed EU-Turkey deal, the plight of more than 46,000 refugees and migrants stuck in squalid conditions across mainland Greece, is in danger of being forgotten, said Amnesty International in a report released today.

The report, Trapped in Greece: an avoidable refugee crisis, examines the situation of refugees and migrants – the majority women and children –trapped on mainland Greece, following the complete closure of the Macedonian border on 7 March."

And see: Forgotten migrants at risk in Greece, says Amnesty (EUobserver, link)

News (18.4.16)

GREECE: E.U. Politics Turn Migrants’ Dreams Into Nightmares on an Overcrowded Greek Island (Time, link): "Yasmin and her family paid smugglers to get them through Turkey, and eventually, to Chios. Like the hundreds of thousands of migrants who took the same route last year, they were hoping to use Greece as a way station into mainland Europe, and then to safety in Germany. But in the last few weeks, the situation in Europe has drastically changed. As a result of the new deal between Turkey and the E.U., which went to into effect last month, all migrants arriving in Greece after March 20 are required to either register for asylum in Greece or be sent back to Turkey. The borders with the rest of Europe have essentially been shut."

GREECE: For These Greek Grandmas, Helping Migrants Brings Back Their Own Past (NPR, link): "The migrants on rafts began landing on the rocky shores of Lesbos a year ago. In a pretty village of colorful fishing boats, one of the first people they saw was Efstratia Mavrapidou, 89, who was born here. She's fragile, her eyes clouded by cataracts. But she made her way to shore by cane.

She wanted to be there to embrace the migrants crowded onto those rafts, especially the young mothers who wept as they clasped tiny, sea-drenched babies.

Many were war refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. They reminded her of her own mother, Evanthea, who fled Turkey via the Ayvalik archipelago nearly a century earlier, crossing the same stretch of the Aegean Sea on a crowded wooden fishing boat."

ITALY-EU: Moving on Up: Italy to Route Northern African Migrants to Europe (Sputnik News, link)

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (16-17.4.16)
Embargoed Press Release: "Death by Rescue": EMBARGOED until 00:01 Monday 18 April - Full report available on request

New evidence proves EU policymakers knew reduced search-and-rescue operation would cause mass migrant deaths (Press Release, pdf)

"A new investigation accuses EU policymakers of “killing by neglect” after cutting rescue missions in the Mediterranean in full knowledge of the lethal consequences of their actions. Meeting transcripts and documents unearthed in a report from Goldsmiths, University of London and the University of York show that the EU border agency Frontex’s own internal assessment of replacing Mare Nostrum with Triton predicted increased deaths at sea, but the policy was introduced anyway.

Researchers found that a previously unreported 2014 Frontex internal assessment on “tackling migrant flows” stated:

“It has to be stressed that the withdrawal of naval assets from the area, if not properly planned and announced well in advance, would likely result in a higher number of fatalities.”

The researchers from the ESRC-funded ˜Precarious Trajectories” project argue that because the decision to retreat from state-led search and rescue operations was taken in full knowledge of the risk, EU policy makers and agencies carry a strong degree of responsibility for mass deaths at sea...."

and see: For press: : Summary of report: Death by Rescue - The lethal effects of the EU's policies of non-assistance at sea (8 pages, pdf)

The report will be launched on Monday 18 April at 6pm at The Mosaic Rooms, 226 Cromwell Road, SW5 0SW London. For details and to book a ticket click here.

EU: Council of the European Union: New asylum policy, EU-Turkey resettlement and Visa Code

- Discussion paper on Commission Communication "Towards a reform of the Common European Asylum System and enhancing legal avenues to Europe" (LIMITE doc no: 7861-16, pdf): Discussion on Commission's new asylum paper.

- Draft Council Decision amending Council Decision (EU) 2015/1601 of 22 September 2015 establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy and Greece (LIMITE doc no: 7500-16, pdf) Resettlement issues -EU-Turkey plan

- Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Union code on Visas (Visa Code) (recast) - mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament (LIMITE doc no: 7714-16, pdf) Council deal on visa code, no humanitarian clause. Only benefits states agreeing readmission deals

EU Eurostat: Record number of over 1.2 million first time asylum seekers registered in 2015 Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis: top citizenships (pdf)

ECHR case opened against Macedonia and Greece: Are You Sryious (link)

"European Court of Human Rights opened up the case against Macedonia and Greece for last Sunday's tergas bombing, plastic bullet shooting and torturous unannounced military exercise yesterday – all of it at Idomeni Camp. They still did not find room for indicating an urgent measure at this point. The applicants, women fleeing war alone with their children, in their majority, are invited to complete their submissions by May 9th."

Italy proposes 'migration compact' to EU (ANSA, link): " Italy has sent a wide-ranging 'migration compact' to the presidents of the European Commission and the European Council, Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk, to cut migrant flows, EU sources said Friday. "

See: Italian Italian Non-Paper: MIGRATION COMPACT: Contribution to an EU strategy for external action on migration (pdf): Like current EU policy it avoids the issue of "safe countries" to use forced returns to or states where EU-funded: "reception centres" (open or closed?) are set up.

Electra (link): "European Court of Human Rights opened up the case against FYROM and Greece for last Sunday's tergasbombing and plasticbullet shooting and about torturous unannounced military exercise yesterday, all at Idomeni Camp. Still found no room for indicating an urgent measure at this point. The applicants, women fleeing war alone with their children, in their majority, are invited to complete their submissions by May 9th." and

Electra (link): "Confirmed. The "safe 3rd country" principle started applying in cases of asylum seekers detained in Moria after March 20th.

We expect from lawyers whose "clients" got such asylum claim rejections to immediately communicate with lawyers practicing in Greece so that the rejections are urgently appealed within the 5 day time limit set. The concerns are huge. HUGE."

Protection and pragmatism: EU-Turkey refugee deal in historical perspective (rightsinexile.tumblr.com, link) by Jeff Crisp:

"The EU-Turkey refugee deal is just the latest effort of EU members trying to keep refugees out. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on the future of refugee protection.

In the short time since it was announced, a great deal has been written about the EU-Turkey refugee deal, with some commentators suggesting that the proposed arrangement represents a new turn in European asylum policy. In fact, it is simply the latest episode in a longstanding effort on the part of EU members and other industrialised states to curtail and manage the arrival of asylum seekers."

Frontex launches talks on possible use of remote piloted aircraft systems (link):

"This week, Frontex launched discussions with industry representatives about a possible use of remote piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) for maritime border surveillance and the potential for industry to provide these kinds of services to Frontex.

While at the moment there is no European legislation that allows the use of remotely piloted aircraft in shared airspace, the preliminary discussions were meant to explore the feasibility of extending the pool of assets providing aerial surveillance services to include medium altitude long endurance RPAS." [emphasis added]

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments:

"I'm sure the "industry" will be very interested in extending its markets. But is Frontex going to consult more widely on the desirability and ethics of using drones to police EU sea borders to exclude people fleeing from war, persecution, poverty and climate change or is it just a practical question of whether they can be supplied?"

Greece: The idealists of Lesbos: volunteers at the heart of the refugee crisis (Guardian, link):

"Pope Francis is to visit the island where more than 50,000 people are thought to have spent time helping those fleeing war.

More than 50,000 volunteers are thought to have passed through since men, women and children – the vast majority fleeing war in Syria – began to land on its shores in flimsy boats last summer.

At no other time in modern history have NGOs or individuals stepped in to make up for the limited resources of a near bankrupt country that has struggled to cope with the influx." [emphasis added]

This Is What a Refugee’s Funeral Looks Like in Greece (muftah.org, link):"Ahmed’s funeral took place on the top of a small Greek mountain on the island of Chios, overlooking the Aegean Sea that he died crossing.*

Standing around his four-foot-long grave on Thursday, February 25, 2016 were four members of his family, three dozen humanitarian aid workers, two EU border police, and the team of Spanish medics who had lifted Ahmed’s small body off of a boat two days earlier. He was three years old.

According to the UNHCR’s best estimates, 13,144 refugees arrived in small dinghies on Chios’ beaches and cliffs in February 2016. Ahmed’s funeral was not the only one held that month."

Greece: Understanding refugees’ repugnance of the camps (New Europe, link): "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here’ – Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy"

News (16-17.4.16)

Turkey 'fires live rounds to drive away Syrian refugees fleeing Islamic State' (Telegraph, link)

Swedish minister 'had dinner with Turkish fascists' (The Local.se,link): "The Swedish Minister of Housing, Mehmet Kaplan, has sparked controversy after a photograph of him emerged having dinner with members of the far-right Turkish organization, Grey Wolves, according to Swedish daily newspaper, Aftonbladet."

Europe can't take in millions: German ex-chancellor (The Local.de, link): "Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl has warned that Europe can't become "a new home" for millions of migrants, in a veiled criticism of incumbent Angela Merkel's liberal asylum policies. ... Orban -- whose country has erected razorwire border fences to deter migrants -- earlier this year said that an uncontrolled influx exposes Europe to the risks of "terrorism, criminality, anti-Semitism and homophobia".."

Italy: It's a 'spike', not an invasion (The Local.at, link): "Italy insisted Friday it was not facing an "invasion" after a spike in migrant boat crossings from Libya exacerbated fears the country is on the verge of becoming the main entry point for people trying to reach Europe."

Pope in Greece: Pope brings hope to migrants, chastises leaders in Lesvos visit (ekathimerini.com, link): "Declaring “we are all migrants,” Pope Francis on Saturday brought a message of hope to thousands of people facing expulsion from Greece as he slammed the world community for failing to end the wars fueling the crisis... The vast majority have requested asylum but will likely be deported under a controversial agreement reached last month to tackle Europe’s refugee crisis by sending all irregular migrants who land in Greece back to Turkey... "

Pope Francis takes refugees to Rome after Lesbos visit (Guardian, link): "Pontiff visits Greek island to highlight refugee crisis, telling crowds: ‘We hope the world will heed these scenes of tragic need’... Pope Francis has taken a dozen highly vulnerable refugees who faced deportation from the Greek island of Lesbos back to Rome, offering them refuge in a rebuke to the EU’s policy of sending migrants and refugees back to Turkey. The leader of the Roman Catholic church made the unprecedented intervention on Saturday during a trip to the island to highlight the refugee crisis unfolding across the continent. "

School For Children In Idomeni (News That Moves, link): "Greek media is reporting that a group of volunteers have set up an informal school for refugee children at the Idomeni camp, in northern Greece, near the Greece-FYROM border. According to the Greek news agency ANA-MPA, at the makeshift ‘Idomeni cultural centre’ daily classes includes maths, Kurdish and Arabic language. Courses for adults are also held. Refugees who have have studied maths, science or languages are teaching in the school."

A family reunification dilemma for the EU (Global Government Forum, link): "Many of the asylum seekers heading for Europe hope to bring their families over later – so governments are squeezing refugees’ rights to family reunification. But Yermi Brenner finds that this may hamper the integration of those who’ve already found asylum in the EU."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (15.4.16)
EU Detains 29 Volunteers for Working with Refugees in Greece (Revolution News, link):

"After clashes which started when Macedonian (FYROM) police and soldiers stopped refugees from crossing the Greek/Macedonian (FYROM) border on Sunday, some of the mainstream media are blaming activists who support refugees in Idomeni for inciting refugee protests....

Not only the Greek government, but also the European Union (EU), are embarrassed because activists and volunteers from all over Europe are doing work that they should be doing – supplying refugees with basic needs like food, sanitary products, and medical help." [emphasis added]

And see; Eelectra (link):

"At least 54 volunteers were arbitrarily temporarily deprived of their freedom yesterday. ADM volunteers have suffered several breaches of their rights, intimidation, harassment by authorities, illegal searches, much of which has been for months reported to the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Michel Forst and to hundreds of NGOs. Now part of the media has targeted them, in what seems a coordinated appeal to darkness."

Italy: The Small Medieval Village With a Big Heart for Refugees (Takepart, link):

"For nearly 20 years, this small Italian town has provided thousands of migrants with a safe place to call their own.

The longtime mayor first realized the potential of refugees after a boatful of Kurdish migrants arrived on Riace’s shores in 1998. With the town struggling to cope with its young residents leaving for opportunities elsewhere, Lucano—a schoolteacher at the time—decided to offer abandoned apartments and job training to those who ended up in Riace. Since that time, it has welcomed more than 6,000 migrants.

For every refugee there, the town receives about $40 every day in government subsidies for a year, which then goes to migrants and their housing costs. While a majority of refugees move north in search of better job opportunities once they acquire their documents, some stay, as Riace offers a safe haven for many families fleeing conflict around the world."

Migrant numbers dwindle as EU-Turkey deal proceeds (Daily Sabah TUrkey, link):

"The latest figures show that Turkish law enforcement captured more than 1,500 smuggling suspects in 2015, 400 suspects have been arrested so far in 2016 and that more than 65,000 migrants have been intercepted at sea and land by security forces since January."

And see: (IOM): Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals in 2016: 177, 207; Deaths: 732 (link) and UNHCR: 178,357 arrivals in the EU, 153,362 in Greece, 24.092 in Italy. 728 dead/missing.

Aid groups urge halt of Turkey returns, Greek detentions under migration deal (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Deportations of refugees and migrants to Turkey and the detention of asylum-seekers on Greek islands must stop, three aid groups said on Friday, citing fears for human rights raised by an EU-Turkey deal to curb an influx of people into Europe...

"Refugees could be returned to Turkey without having had a proper asylum hearing or without receiving the necessary information about their legal rights," international charity Oxfam, humanitarian NGO Norwegian Refugee Council and Greek group Solidarity Now warned in a joint statement...

"The increasing use of detention as a restriction of the freedom of movement of asylum-seekers on the grounds of their irregular entry is a major concern," they aid groups said.

From the onset, the EU-Turkey agreement has been fiercely criticised by United Nations refugee and human rights agencies, as well as rights groups, as immoral and a violation of international humanitarian law against blanket returns..."

Se aslo: Deportations of refugees and migrants from Greece must be halted as fears of human rights violations grow (Solidarity Now, Greece, link)

Turkey seeks readmission deals with Iraq, Iran (hurriyetdailynews.com, link): "Neighboring Iran and Iraq are among the 14 countries with which Turkey has offered to sign readmission agreements in a move to enable Turkey to take back migrants rejected by the European Union more quickly.

In addition to Iran and Iraq, Turkey has proposed Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Eritrea, Morocco, Ghana, Myanmar, the Republic of Congo, Somali, Sudan and Tunisia conclude readmission deals, Turkish officials told Hürriyet Daily News on April 12.

“Negotiations have still been underway with these source countries,” the same officials, speaking anonymously, said."

Greece: Vial detention centre (link)

"Please read and share as much as possible, also pass on to any friends you may have in the press to see if we can get some attention on this problem...


As many are aware, conditions in Vial are atrocious. There is a dire shortage of drinking water and of food, and a complete dearth of most everything else. But the most vexing, appalling, devastating situation by far, the one that is calling out for immediate change, is that of young babies at Vial. There is no system whatsoever in place for distribution of baby milk (baby formula) for young babies. Patchwork semi-solutions have been brought by selfless, exhausting efforts on the part of individual volunteers (in particular Kostas Tanainis) who have occasionally been allowed in depending on the irrational whim of guards; there is no official policy in place. When donated baby milk has been delivered to the camp but volunteers were not allowed to distribute it, it has languished undistributed."

Help the Helpers in Idomeni: Greece Police - Stop arresting volunteers (change.org, link): "After clashes which started when Macedonian (FYROM) police and soldiers stopped refugees from crossing the Greek/Macedonian (FYROM) border on Sunday, some of the mainstream media are blaming activists who support refugees in Idomeni for inciting refugee protests.... We have been portrayed as being present at all the protests. This is easy to do because we are in camps every day and when we become aware of protests, we act to minimise harm.

This petition will be delivered to: Alexis Tsipras, Greece Police, EU Union, media"

Are You Syrious (link):

"Greek military are circling #Idomeni and the surrounding areas as part of a supposed drill. Soldiers deployed on ground just hundreds of meters from the main camp, 5 fighter jets and 4 military choppers all active. Kids and mothers screaming and scared in camp due to the military presence, which obviously brings back memories of the war they are fleeing from. Volunteers also being arrested regularly for frivolous offenses. 26 arrested yesterday alone. The Greek clampdown has begun, crazy scenes to witness in 21st century Europe....

Oxfam, British Refugee Council, International Rescue Committee and 10 other organisations have condemned UK government as turning a blind eye to suffering on its doorstep and needs to “accept its moral responsibility”. Although the UK pledged 7.7 billion British pounds to countries in the Middle East (Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon) in February, the organisations called for the UK to step up their efforts to create a “safe haven” within British borders along with contributing more to humanitarian aid and assistance in improving conditions for refugees trapped at borders and in transit (particularly Greece). Maurice Wren from the British Refugee Council explained that “While European leaders demonstrate a collective failure of political leadership and moral courage, people who have escaped war and tyranny are met with barbed wire and tear gas, mums are forced to bathe their infants in dirty puddles, and yet more refugee children drown on Europe’s shores.”...

Germany deported 60 percent more migrants last year than in 2014, the government said on Wednesday, with figures from January and February showing that the pace of repatriations further accelerating. Some 22,369 people were forcibly returned to their countries of origin in 2015, up from 13,851 the previous year. In the first two months of this year close to 4,500 people were repatriated - twice as many as in January and February 2015. Meanwhile, the number of asylum seekers who have voluntarily left Germany also rose sharply, from 13,573 in 2014 to 37,200 in 2015. From January to March this year, voluntary repatriations reached 14,095."

Kyrgyzstan: Protests In Bishkek Against NGO Registration Legislation (Radio Free Europe, link)

"Kyrgyz human rights activists have gathered outside of parliament in Bishkek to protest against a proposed "foreign agents" law being considered by lawmakers.

The bill would require noncommercial, nongovernmental organizations involved in political activities -- and which receive any funds from foreign sources -- to be labled as “foreign agents”."

Seems a bit similar to what's happening in Greece?: NGOs and volunteers helping refugees in Greece to be placed under state control (Statewatch)

News (15.4.16)

Greek army exercises trigger reaction from Turkey, FYROM (ekathimerini.com, link): "The Greek armed forces on Thursday staged military exercises on the country’s border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and over the Aegean island of Oinousses, following several days of Turkish violations of Greek air space and tensions with FYROM. ... On Thursday, Greek police officers continued to conduct checks on volunteers and activists suspected of inciting refugees to storm across the FYROM border. Officers are attempting to prevent the activists, most of whom are foreign and aligned with anti-establishment groups, from distributing leaflets that urge the refugees to defy the advice of Greek and FYROM authorities and breach the frontier. Two Spanish men, aged 27 and 28, were detained on Thursday on several charges including disturbing the peace and putting the Greek state at risk. According to police sources, the two men were seen in a crowd of migrants trying to scale the barbed-wire border fence."

EU asylum applications from lone children quadruple (euobserver, link)

Greece: Almost Four Thousand People Still At Piraeus Port (News That Moves, link): "As of 13 April around 3,800 people were still waiting at the Piraeus port, in Athens, according to UNHCR data. Until recently, more than 5,000 people were camped there. Greek authorities announced that they are planning to fully evacuate the port by the end of April."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (14.4.16)
Greece: Attacks on civil society/NGOs: See lawyer, Electra (link)

"They've made volunteers so afraid to perform their activities, which are safeguarding human rights, that even they now call the attempts of refugees to escape breaches of their right to dinity and reach safety "illegal". Crackdown against civil society is widening and intensifying in Idomeni. Volunteers must understand that if they don't jointly speak up, they're gonna be next.."

See Statement by InterVolve (International volunteers) (pdf): "Four of our volunteers were arrested today for carrying two-way radios on their way to camp of Eidomeni..We reserve our right to initiate legal action concerning false accusations made today by journalists and the media."

And see: Greek Police crack down on activists along FYROM border (ekathimerini.com, link):

"As tensions flared anew at Greece’s border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on Wednesday, police detained five foreign nationals – a German, a Briton and three Norwegians – who are alleged to have committed a string of offenses while acting in purported solidarity with refugees who want to cross the border.

The German woman was arrested near the Idomeni refugee camp after officers found a can of pepper spray in her possession. The other four activists were said to be carrying transistor radios that were allegedly tuned into the frequency used by the Greek Police (ELAS).

Officers have been conducting spot checks on people in and around the Idomeni camp amid fears that certain activists are exhorting refugees and migrants to break through Greece’s border with FYROM."

See: Greek Police crack down on activists along FYROM border (ekathimerini.com, link): "In a related development, the Greek Foreign Ministry lodged complaints with the governments of Austria, Croatia, Serbia and the Czech Republic following claims by FYROM authorities according to which members of those countries’ security services participated in violence against migrants during clashes at the Greek-FYROM border on Sunday." [emphasis added]

Greece Holds Activists as Migrants and Police Clash Anew at Macedonia Border (New York Times, link):

"Clashes erupted at Greece’s northern border for the second time in three days on Wednesday, with the Macedonian police firing tear gas on scores of migrants as they protested border closings that have left more than 12,000 stranded in a makeshift refugee camp.

The protests in Idomeni, a town in Greece on the border with Macedonia, came as Greek authorities arrested 14 activists there, saying that they had incited the migrants to storm the razor-wire fence dividing the two countries."

AYS NEWS DIGEST 13/4/2016 (link):

"Reporting about the refugees who have attempted the dangerous trip across Aegean, we sometimes forget to reflect on living conditions of those who couldn't afford the place on a smuggler's boat. One of our volunteer contacts, who wishes to remain anonymous, has sent us a disturbing personal testimony about refugees who are stuck in Turkey: ...

MSF issued a report about the state of the migrants and refugees at the closed facility on Samos. There are more than 700 asylum seekers, mostly from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afganistan, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Lebanon, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt, on Samos currently. Many are women and children. According to MSF, most of them arrived by boat after 20 March. “Migrants were told they will be sent to a camp in Athens in accordance with the relocation mechanism set out in the Dublin Regulation. This allows refugees to choose eight countries from the list of EU states, and efforts will be made to send them to one of them. However, there appears to be no guarantee that the choice of eight countries will be respected. In general, people don’t know what even the near future holds for them..."

Watch The Med - Alarmphone: The New Aegean Deportation Regime: Mass incarcerations in hotspots and forced expulsions of Migrants and Refugees (link): "n light of the catastrophic conditions in these hotspots/detention centres, the UNHCR and Doctors without Borders refused to continue their work there. Both organisations have strongly denounced the violation of international human rights conventions, clear consequences of the EU-Turkey deal ... "

Electra (links)

"Army's helicopters, air jets and armed soldiers in coordinated activity have left Idomeni Camp. It cannot be deemed justified, under ANY respect, that a military exercise took place exactly where thousands of people having fled war have camped, without ANY concern on -at least- informing about it? These people have re-lived the terror of war attacks today. Children cannot stop crying and shaking. Who is going to treat these children who have been re-traumatized today? WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO US LATELY?" and

(link) "Interim measure request just sent to the European Court of Human Rights, on behalf of several women alone with dozens of children, stranded in Idomeni, requesting authorities to stop terrorising them, and especially their children. After the recent teargas, grenades and shooting plastic bullets that Greek authorities just watched F.Y.R.O.M. authorities throw and fire, today refugees in Idomeni are surrounded by air and land by jets glying low above their heads, tanks, army with guns running around them in an acute war-like environment. No one has informed them why this is happening. For God's, Allah's, Jesus', Buddha's and Universe's sake.
These people have just fled war.

These thousands of children have escaped a war field. STOP doing this to them! Enough with inhumanity. ENOUGH!"

Ten nations seek military planes for deportations (ekathimerini.com, link): "Austria and nine East European and Balkan states are calling for an EU declaration endorsing the use of military aircraft for the deportation of migrants who have no chance for asylum, or whose request for that status have been rejected."

News (14.4.16)

Human rights group slams EU, Greece over refugee, migrant living conditions on islands (ekathimerini.com, link): "Human Rights Watch issued a statement criticizing what it said were the “deplorable conditions” in which about 4,000 people were being detained on the Greek islands of Lesvos and Chios.... The statement also said: “Turkey cannot be considered a safe country due to its refusal to grant effective protection to non-Europeans in need, including Afghans and Iraqis.”"

UNHCR Daily Report 13.4.16: "Regarding relocation and resettlement of persons in need of international protection, EU Member States were urged by the European Commission (EC) to urgently deliver on their political and legal commitments.

Only 208 people were relocated since 16 March, bringing the total number of relocated applicants from Greece and Italy to 1,145. The EC estimates that between 35,000 and 40,000 people in Greece would be eligible for relocation. As of 12 April, 615 people were relocated from Greece. The EC calls on EU Member States to drastically increase their relocation efforts in order to alleviate the urgent humanitarian situation in Greece and prevent the deterioration of the situation in Italy."

Daily Report 14.4.16:: "A broad majority of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voiced concern over the agreement and called on the Commission and Council to closely monitor the situation of human rights and freedom of speech in Turkey, as well as allegations that Syrian refugees are being pushed back to Syria by the Turkish authorities. They also questioned whether Turkey can be considered a “safe country” of return for refugees."

Refugee country ‘safe lists’ complicated by European disunity (euractiv, link): "The Geneva Convention clearly defines where can be considered a “safe country of origin”, but the refugee crisis has complicated the issue and thrust it back into the limelight.... This is particularly relevant in the current debate, where Germany wants to list Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia as safe, yet Bulgaria has long included Algeria on its own list. Morocco and Tunisia are currently not listed on any national lists as safe. The matter highlights in particular how flexible international law is and how much power individual countries have over determining where is safe and where is not. Currently, 12 member states have compiled “safe lists”, yet there is not one single country that appears on all 12 lists, emphasising the bloc’s failures to coordinate on a common refugee policy...".

Greece: Tell us what it's like to live in Lesbos (The Guardian, link): "Pope Francis is set to arrive on the Greek island on Saturday to show his support and solidarity for refugees. We’d like to know what life is like in Lesbos."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (13.4.16)
Greece: Independent volunteers are not responsible for violence

"We, the independent volunteers of the Shorba Crew and other groups in Idomeni have not been starting protests in the camps and strongly resent accusations by the media that we are 'fake volunteers'. Since January, The Shorba Crew have cooked over 500,000 meals and served them in and around Idomeni camp. Media and police has accused volunteers of starting the protests in camp which have been responded to with the sickening and indiscriminate violence of the FYROM border forces. As a result volunteers have been subject to intensified police harassment.

Yesterday (12/04/16) three volunteers were illegally detained while driving to the Idomeni camp. The reason given was to provide identification - something that we all do regularly on site....

A female member of the group was illegally forced to strip for a complete search, again without pretext. Phones were taken. The owner of the car was beaten then handcuffed and taken to another room by four other police and loudly threatened with more violence while his friends had to listen outside. He has since been taken to Kilkis and remains in police custody until at least tomorrow morning. No reason has been given for this violent detainment and violation."

EU Cracks Down on Independent Volunteers in Greece (Megaphone Valkyrie, link):

"2016 began with a move to have all volunteers registered with the police. In a crisis where immigration law criminalises vital humanitarian work, this is a recipe for disaster. And it is not just about elbowing out the political activists; to ‘allow authorities time to organise the registration process’, entire flights chartered for volunteers have been cancelled. Even Clowns Without Borders were barred from the camps. The same thing is now happening in France, where independent volunteers are being barred from the camps at Dunkirk and Calais, reduced to watching months of work burned to the ground by authorities branding them ‘uncaring’ and ‘dangerous’.

There’s another glaring cause for concern on the Greek front: over half their police are Golden Dawn supporters. So, fifty-fifty chance you’re registering sensitive information with an armed fascist. That wasn’t an abstract danger to any of us: we had witnessed the racism and brutality. One night, we were so afraid of the police in our building, we slept in the car....

It was the beginning of a crackdown ordered from the highest levels. The Council of the European Union is preparing plans to equate humanitarian assistance with people trafficking, criminalising those saving lives at sea and caring for survivors on land. “We feel as if we are in the resistance in World War Two,” said Lara. “We were ‘randomly’ checked for papers and passports and told not to feed the hungry. Every move we make is being watched.”

See Statewatch coverage: NGOs and volunteers helping refugees in Greece to be placed under state control and Council proposals on migrant smuggling would criminalise humanitarian assistance by civil society, local people and volunteers

EU-GREECE: Commission adopts assessment of Greece’s Schengen Action Plan while relocation targets are left behind (New Europe, link): "Numbers show that the EU – Turkey deal agreement implementation is still unable to reach relocation targets." and Commission gives Greece two weeks to fix its borders - Brussels also warns about missed targets on relocation of refugees.(Politico, link)

and: Greece gets two-week deadline for border plan (euobserver, link): “The commission requests that Greece provide the additional elements and clarifications by 26 April and offers its continuous support to Greece,” the EU executive’s statement said. If, however, deficiencies persist, the commission will present a proposal to allow member states to extend border controls beyond an initial six-month period"

See: Communication: Assessment of Greece's Action Plan to remedy the serious deficiencies identified in the 2015 evaluation on the application of the Schengen acquis in the field of management of the external border (COM 220-16, pdf)

News (13.4.16)

Greece: She thought she'd seen the worst of the refugee camps. Then she went to Idomeni (upworthy.com, link)

Europe migrants: Austria builds Brenner border centre despite criticism (BBC News, link): "Austria says it has begun work to tighten immigration controls at a key north-south European crossing point."

Did Finland kowtow to Russia’s border demands? ”Golden visas” for foreign investors, and refugees’ volunteering opportunities (link)

Greek coast guard rescues 120 migrants off Lesvos, Samos (.ekathimerini.com, link): "Greek coast guard officers rescued 120 refugees and migrants in three separate incidents off Lesvos and Samos, authorities said on Wednesday morning. Officials said that between Tuesday and Wednesday morning there had been 101 arrivals on the Aegean islands. There are currently 3,644 people at the Lesvos hotspot, 1,827 in Chios and 516 on Samos, according to authorities."

Commission defends plan to deport Afghans to ‘safe’ regions (euracttiv, link): "EXCLUSIVE / The European Commission has confirmed the existence of a plan that would see 80,000 Afghans deported back to their homeland and stressed that it is still in line with the spirit of European migration policy.."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (12.4.16)
European Commssion: Communication: Assessment of Greece's Action Plan to remedy the serious deficiencies identified in the 2015 evaluation on the application of the Schengen acquis in the field of management of the external border (COM 220-16, pdf): Still no mention of the need for lawyers with access to refugees and:

"As far as information about accommodation possibilities from the Hellenic Police to migrants who are not staying in a reception/registration or detention centre is concerned, Greece is requested to implement the measures without delay."

and Report: Second report on relocation and resettlement (COM 222-16, pdf):

"From 16 March until 11 April, only 208 additional people had been relocated, 46 from Greece (to Estonia, Portugal and Finland) and 162 from Italy (to Portugal, France, Finland and Romania), bringing the total number of persons relocated to 1,145 (615 from Greece and 530 from Italy)....

The total number of formal pledges by Member States of relocation amounts to 4,516 (1,573 to Italy and 2,943 to Greece) 2.82% of total. Austria, Croatia, Hungary and Slovakia have still not submitted any pledge. Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovenia have not yet delivered on their pledges

Are You Syrious (link): "Greek council for Refugees voiced a strong critique of the changes in Greek laws which made possible for the provisions of the EU/Turkey deal to be carried out. The changes go against national and international law with GCR stating that "The enforcement of the measure involving deprivation of freedom without individual assessment continues "

Electra (link) On the position of lawyers in Greece

European Parliament: GUE/NGL abstention largely due to lack of criticism of recent EU-Turkey deal on refugees (link):

"Despite the positive points in the Metsola, Kyenge report on 'the situation in the Mediterranean and the need for a holistic EU approach to migration', voted in Parliament today, the lack of criticism concerning the recent EU-Turkey agreement was among the reasons why many members of the group were unable to back the report and abstained....

MEP Spinelli continues: "The main reason I recommended our group to abstain was, however, the complete absence of criticism of the recent EU-Turkey deal: a deal deemed illegal even by the UN secretary general’s special representative for international migration and development for two fundamental reasons: it promotes collective deportations and considers Turkey as a safe third country.""

UNHCR stalling on commitments in Greece (New Europe, link): "With relocations of refugees from Greece to other EU Member States taking place at an alarmingly slow rate, and resettlements from Turkey commencing last week, governments have recognised that the refugee crisis in Greece and Europe cannot be solved without the effective participation of international organisations. The most important organisation, the UNHCR has fallen short of its commitments.

An EU source told New Europe that the European Commission could consider a partial recovery of the €80 million of EU taxpayers’ money that was provided for the cause of developing reception places in Greece, “but would rather see the UNHCR deliver on its obligations.”

In December, the European Commission agreed to provide the UNHCR with the sum of €80 million to develop 20,000 additional reception places for asylum seekers and relocation candidates in Greece through subsidies for housing in the private sector.

The UNHCR committed to use have the places ready by January this year. By March 11th, significantly past the deadline, 1,387 of the 20,000 reception places had been used through the scheme. The UNHCR capacity is currently 3,242 places; 16,758 places short."

UNHCR: (11.4.16): Arrivals in EU total 2016: 173,728. In Greece 153,156 (up 175 since 8.4.6), in Italy 19,934 (up 608). 716 dead/missing this year.

Daily Report (11.4.16): "Regarding the clashes of last Sunday, Achilleas Tzemos, of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), told Reuters that of more 30 of the 300 people treated had wounds caused by rubber bullets. A similar number had open wounds, and 200 others had respiratory problems resulting from exposure to teargas.
“Among those with breathing difficulties there were quite a few women and children,” he said."

EU asylum applications from lone children quadruple (euobserver, link): "At least 95,000 unaccompanied children applied for asylum in Europe last year, four times the numbers for 2014.

The huge increase was discovered by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism during an investigation into the level of migration among unaccompanied children, defined as those under 18 years old, in Europe and the stark inconsistencies in the way they are treated.

From approaching 29 different governments for statistics, the investigators found that at least 95,070 applied for asylum in Europe in 2015, up from 23,572 in 2014."

And see: Revealed: Fourfold rise as 95,000 unaccompanied children claim asylum in Europe in 2015 (BIJ, link)

Broad Bulgarian support for vigilantes ‘arresting’ refugees (euractiv, link):

"An amateur video published on social media yesterday (11 April), showing the arrest of asylum seekers by vigilantes, sparked debates at political level and among the wider public about the role of so-called “patriots” in discouraging refugees from crossing through Bulgaria.The amateur shows vigilantes arresting three refugees, tying their hands behind their backs as they lie on the ground in a wood."

And: Bulgarian vigilantes filmed tying up migrants (BBC News, link) and Bulgaria Awards Vigilante Migrant-Hunters (Balkan Insight, link): "Police have given an award to one of the voluntary ‘border patrols’ which have been gaining popularity in Bulgaria, with groups of ordinary people detaining migrants and handing them to the authorities."

Greece: Greece blasts FYROM over migrant border violence (ekathimerini.com, link): "Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras accused neighboring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on Monday of “shaming” Europe by firing tear gas and rubber bullets at migrants desperately trying to break through a border fence.

Tensions were still running high after Sunday's violence, which saw 250 migrants and refugees hurt at the flashpoint Idomeni crossing as they tried to force their way into FYROM. “Faced with people who were clearly not armed and constituted no serious threat, they attacked with chemicals, with tear gas and rubber bullets,” Tsipras told reporters, blaming FYROM police.

“This is a great shame for European culture and for countries who want to be part of it,” he said, calling on the EU and the UN refugee agency UNHCR to take a stand as Europe struggles cope with its worst migration crisis since World War II."

News (12.4.16)

UNHCR Daily Report (12.4.16): "Speaking to public broadcaster ERT, Brigadier General Zacharoula Tsirigoti, head of Greece’s immigration police, stated that about 3,500 people are currently located at the detention facility in Moria on the island of Lesvos. Almost all those present have expressed interest in submitting an application to request asylum; applications are now being processed. Of those, about 700 persons with specific needs have been transferred to the municipality’s open accommodation centre in Kara Tepe. Tsirigoti also said the asylum service on Lesvos has been strengthened with an additional 46 staff and aims to examine 50 applications per day. She added that Syrian nationals who will be returned by plane to Turkey under the EU-Turkey agreement will be processed in Osmaniye Province (near Adana)." and

In Austria, UNHCR issued a press release to express concern regarding the intended amendment of the Asylum Act. The draft law foresees limited access for asylum-seekers to the asylum procedure. The majority of those seeking international protection could, on the basis of this legislation, be rejected at the border in a fasttrack procedure and be returned to Austria’s neighbouring countries unless having close family ties in Austria. UNHCR called for joint European solutions rather than unilateral measures. Furthermore, access to the territory and fair asylum procedures for all asylum-seekers, the respect for legal minimum standards, and special treatment for children and particularly vulnerable people were urged. UNHCR appeals to the Austrian Federal government to reconsider the proposed amendment and adopt measures in line with international and European refugee law." and see:

NGOs slam Austria's asylum law changes (The Local.at, link): "Austria’s biggest charities have joined forces to slam the government’s increasingly hardline approach to dealing with migrants and refugees, in what is arguably the biggest criticism of the strategy from the country’s NGO sector yet Caritas, Diakonie and the Austrian Red Cross - who all provide services to refugees as part of their work - spoke out at a press conference on Monday against a change to the country’s asylum law. As of mid-May, the government will only accept cases of refugees facing threats to their safety in a neighbouring transit country or whose relatives are already in Austria.."

Greece: Migrant inflows ease on islands of eastern Aegean (ekathimerini.com, link): "in the 24-hour period to 9 a.m. on Tuesday, a total of 80 people landed on Greece’s shores, a marked drop from the hundreds trying to enter the European Union daily before a deal with Turkey to curb inflows was put into effect at the start of the month. Of these 80, 75 landed on Lesvos, four on Chios and one on Samos. There were no Syrians among them, officials told the ANA-MPA."

Fifteen questioned as part of tighter policing of Idomeni refugee camp (ekathimerini.com, link): "Police on Tuesday remanded 13 foreign nationals and two Greeks at the makeshift refugee camp at Idomeni on Greece’s northern border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).... Most of the suspects are foreign nationals – from Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, Portugal and the Czech Republic. They were questioned in connection with reports that Sunday’s storming of the border, as well as several similar incidents in the past, may have been incited by anti-establishment groups."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (11.4.16)
MSF treats hundreds after Despite the positive points in the Metsola, Kyenge report on 'the situation in the Mediterranean and the need for a holistic EU approach to migration', voted in Parliament today, the lack of criticism concerning the recent EU-Turkey agreement was among the reasons why many members of the group were unable to back the report and abstained.Greek-FYROM border violence (MSF, link): "On 10 April, after the violent events at the border between Greece and FYROM, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical teams treated hundreds including around 40 people injured by rubber bullets. At least ten people have reported to MSF teams that they were beaten by FYROM police.

Two extra mobile medical teams were added to the normal activities in Idomeni camp to assist the growing number of people in the camp.

"Today, frustration and a growing feeling of anger are spread among the refugees who have been stranded in Idomeni for over one month. What we see is the inevitable result of thousands being trapped in Greece, a country unable to respond to the humanitarian and protection needs of those in search of safety in Europe,” stated Jose Hulsenbek, MSF’s Head of Mission in Greece. "What people need is to be treated with dignity, not violence or unpredictable border closures and more uncertainty. This absurd humanitarian crisis created by European states’ policies is becoming more unbearable by the day.” "

And see: Macedonian police teargas, pepper spray refugees at Greek border: Who supplied the "crowd control" equipment? (Statewatch News Online)

Joint declaration of the prime ministers of Greece and Portugal - 11 April 2016 (pdf): Statement on three themes: 1. A European response to the refugee and migration crisis; 2. European Economic and Monetary Union; 3. Peace and stability in our broader region. On refugee and migration policy it says:

"We believe that the building of walls and fences, the unilateral and uncoordinated implementation of measures or the unwillingness to participate in commonly agreed actions, such as resettlement and relocation schemes, undermine European solidarity as well as the humane and effective management of migrant flows.

Europe must remain open to hosting people in need of international protection, by replacing dangerous, irregular migration routes with legal processes of resettlement of refugees from countries neighboring Syria and by accelerating the relocation processes of refugees already in Greece and Italy. At the same time, the EU must enhance efforts to establish readmission agreements with the countries of origin of economic immigrants."

After Return: documenting the experiences of young people forcibly removed to Afghanistan (Right to Remain, link): "2,018 young men who spent their formative teenage years in the UK care system have been sent back to Afghanistan over the past 9 years, often to very precarious and dangerous situations.

Since March 2014, Refugee Support Network (RSN) has been systematically monitoring what happens to former child asylum seekers who have been forcibly removed to Afghanistan after turning 18. After Return – published on 5th April at the Institute of Education – documents their experiences and, for the first time, fills a vital evidence gap in their education, employment, health and wellbeing outcomes."

See also: Deported to persecution: The Home Office's Eritrean programme (politics.co.uk, link): " It was roughly twelve months after 31-year-old Gebre Berhane (not his real name) escaped Eritrea that the letter came through from the Home Office. He'd already lost 13 years of his life to forced military service and faced the threat of a regime which he says kidnapped his father turning on him. Berhane was sure his request for asylum would be accepted and his nightmare would come to an end."

Deported migrants call for freedom from behind barred windows (euronews, link): "Some 325 migrants have been deported to Turkey from the Greek island of Lesbos under an EU deal.

They wait to learn of their fate inside a fenced reception and removal centre in the town of Pehlivankoy. The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) says it has yet to gain access to the facility.

Migrants from Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan and Iraq call for freedom from behind the facility’s barred windows.

They were deported from Lesbos on Friday (April 8) under the controversial EU-Turkey deal to stem mass irregular migration to Europe."

EU-AUSTRIA: How will the Austrian presidential elections influence EU's (migration) policy and TTIP? (VoteWatch Europe, pdf): "Austrians will vote for a new President on 24 April. The race is very tight, as the migration crisis is substantially impacting the national political landscape. A victory of a candidate from outside the current grand coalition would seriously undermine the government's policies. The nationalist anti-immigration and anti-EU FPÖ is on the rise and pushes hard to be part of the government."

News (4.4.16)

EU-TURKEY: The First Migrants Deported Back to Turkey Under an E.U. Deal Face an Uncertain Future (Time, link): "The men stepping off the boat carried few belongings: a backpack, a blanket, a light jacket. Escorted by uniformed officials, they walked one by one down a gangplank lined on both sides by police officers, into the control of the Turkish immigration authorities.

They were among 45 Pakistani men sent by boat to Turkey from Greece on Friday morning, making them some of the first people deported under a Turkish-European agreement intended to halt the historic wave of migrants seeking to enter Europe by sea. A reported 124 people were scheduled to be deported on Friday from Greek islands under the agreement, which calls for migrants arriving in Greece via the informal sea route to be returned to Turkey. After surviving the potentially lethal crossing from Turkey to Greece across the Aegean Sea—a journey that took the lives of hundreds of migrants last year—all of them are now back in Turkey."

EU aid an ineffective tool to end the migration crisis (EurActiv, link): "Since the beginning of the refugee crisis, the EU has announced a host of measures aimed at bringing the situation under control. Europe’s development assistance budget, the largest international aid pot in the world, has so far made up a large share of the financial shortfall. But the results of similar action in the past have not always met expectations."

Fewer than 0.1% of Syrians in Turkey in line for work permits (The Guardian, link): "Fewer than 0.1% of Syrians in Turkey currently stand to gain the right to work under much-vaunted Turkish labour laws, undermining EU claims that the legislation excuses a recent decision to deport Syrian asylum-seekers back to Turkey.

Turkish employers have allowed roughly 2,000 – or 0.074% – of Turkey’s 2.7 million Syrians to apply for work permits under new legislation enacted two months ago, according to government figures provided to aid workers at a meeting in late March. The number of permits granted has not yet been disclosed."

Greek Politician Says Closing Borders Would Keep the 'Enemy' Inside (Sputnik News, link): "The migration crisis is a test that will show the level of Europe's stability, Greek government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili told Sputnik Express Greek-language radio program.

"Europe today is being tested for stability. There are countries that have closed the borders, believing that by doing so, they will run away from the so-called enemy. The truth is that if an enemy, whatever enemy, exists they shut [the enemy] inside by closing the borders," Gerovasili said."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (9-10.4.16)
The EU and Turkey have struck a deal to trade refugees back and forth. (video, link). Speaking the blunt truth.

Macedonian police teargas, pepper spray refugees at Greek border: who supplied the "crowd control equipment"?

Idomeni: Children teargassed as FYROM goes against refugees in Greece (keeptalkinggreece.com, link) "There has never happened before: that police of one country fires teargas on the soil of another country. FYROM police made extensive use of teargas and sound flares against refugees and migrants who are on Greece’s soil."

Macedonian police use teargas on migrants at Greek border (Reuters, link): "Macedonian police used teargas to push back hundreds of migrants from a border fence on Sunday at a sprawling refugee camp on the Greek border, a Reuters witness said. Teargas was fired on a crowd of more than 500 people who had gathered at the frontier at the makeshift camp of Idomeni. A Greek police source said there was "tension" in the area but declined to comment further."

Macedonia police deploy tear gas on refugees at Idomeni (DW, link): " For the first couple of hours the protests were calm. After speaking with Greek police, five refugees even agreed to go to the border to negotiate with the Macedonian authorities. "We are not the ones who keep the borders closed," a Macedonian police officer said with the help of an English-speaking interpreter. "We are following Europe's orders. Please remain calm and peaceful and do not try to break the fence."

One of the representatives responded: "We understand, and we want to be peaceful. But behind me there are 10,000 people - refugees who are fleeing war - and they have been here for months now. We want a solution."" Ten minutes later the clashes broke out."

See: Leaked Skopje letter exposes ‘closed borders’ coalition (7.3.16, euractiv, link): "EXCLUSIVE / A list of requests to protect external borders recently sent to several member states by the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has exposed the weaknesses of the group of countries blocking an EU-wide solution of the refugee crisis... Balkan states met in Vienna on 24 February to discuss possible solutions to the refugee crisis in the Western Balkans region, including closing borders. Greece was not invited. Hosted by Austria’s EPP-affiliated foreign and interior ministries, the meeting, attended by Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia...

A week later (1 March), police chiefs from four Balkan countries — Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia — along with Austria, the Dutch presidency and Hungary, met in Belgrade...The former Yugoslav republic sent a detailed 12-page letter to several member states describing its needs, in order to have its southern border under full control....It also asks for equipment to be used for crowd control, and the monthly expenses for personnel, vehicles, and the technical capability of an army to be fully covered....In Annex No 3, “Equipment for crowd control”, Macedonia requests special bombs (shock, with rubber balls) pepper spray and crowd control dispensers."

See Annex 3: Equipment for crowd control (pdf) which countries suppled: "crows control dispenser" "pepper sprays", "Tasers", "rubber bullets", "acoustic device to break up mob", "Launcher (grenade with rubber balls"? (and see Footnote).

Note: The table contains individual and collective equipment for a platoon to deal with crowd"


"We kindly request Médecins du Monde Greece, Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Save The Children, and volunteer doctors on Idomeni camp, once they finish treating people / referring them to hospitals, to communicate with me. A massive appeal for investigation, accountability and urgent respect to fundamental rights has been addressed to Greek and F.Y.R.O.M.'s authorities concerning today's events at Idomeni and the teargas bombing of vulnerable persons (among which thousands of children, and persons with compromised health and disabilities) in tents, who did not participate in any hostile act towards border's officials.

The report and urgent request to FYROM, submitted by me as authorized by - among others- 26 single refugee mothers with seventy children- is also being sent to the Office of the Special Representative of the European Union and the Delegation of the European Commission in Skopje, and to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe - OSCE in Skopje.

All those holding documentation (pictures, videos, testimonies etc.) concerning today's events are also invited to send us relative information, with a note that we can use it in front of national and supra-national authorities, in the email electrakoutra@yahoo.gr."

See also: Migrants clash with police on Greece-FYROM border (ekathimerini.com, link): "Clashes continued into the afternoon, and the wind brought tear gas fumes into a nearby makeshift camp on the Greek side of the border holding over 11,000 stranded migrants. Many people, including small children, who were not involved in the clashes, were suffering from respiratory problems.

Volunteer doctors were treating several dozen migrants with respiratory problems, slight injuries from the plastic bullets and facial injuries from close quarter clashes when the fence was temporarily breached, Achilleas Tzemos, deputy field coordinator of Doctors Without Borders told The Associated Press. He said three were referred to hospitals."

Macedonian police use teargas on migrants at Greek border (Reuters, link): "Macedonian police used teargas to push back hundreds of migrants from a border fence on Sunday at a sprawling refugee camp on the Greek border, a Reuters witness said. Teargas was fired on a crowd of more than 500 people who had gathered at the frontier at the makeshift camp of Idomeni. A Greek police source said there was "tension" in the area but declined to comment further."

Macedonia police deploy tear gas on refugees at Idomeni (DW, link): " For the first couple of hours the protests were calm. After speaking with Greek police, five refugees even agreed to go to the border to negotiate with the Macedonian authorities. "We are not the ones who keep the borders closed," a Macedonian police officer said with the help of an English-speaking interpreter. "We are following Europe's orders. Please remain calm and peaceful and do not try to break the fence."

One of the representatives responded: "We understand, and we want to be peaceful. But behind me there are 10,000 people - refugees who are fleeing war - and they have been here for months now. We want a solution."" Ten minutes later the clashes broke out."

EU Council of the European Union: Council Decision of 23 March 2016 establishing the position to be taken on behalf of the European Union within the Joint Readmission Committee on a Decision of the Joint Readmission Committee on implementing arrangements for the application of Articles 4 and 6 of the Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Turkey on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation from 1 June 2016 (pdf)

This Decision brings forward the starting date on the main Agreement adopted in 2014: AGREEMENT between the European Union and the Republic of Turkey on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation (pdf)

Uncertain Future: Weaknesses Emerge in EU-Turkey Refugee Deal (Spiegel Online, link): "The EU is praising the first deportations this week from Greece to Turkey as a breakthrough for the recent refugee agreement with Ankara. But it was little more than a show. Many believe the deal will fail to survive the expected legal challenges."

Germany: Pro Asyl: Despite subsequent improvements: EU-Turkey deal violates fundamental human rights! (link):

"“These plans are simply illegal”

Vehement criticism of the planned deal has already been voiced in the run-up to it. On 8 March Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees stated: “As a first reaction, I am deeply concerned about any arrangement that would involve the blanket return of anyone from one country to another without spelling out the refugee protection safeguards under international law.” The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights found similarly clear words: “These plans are simply illegal”.,,,

European Commission: Turkey is not a “safe third country”

The European Commission tries to play down and obfuscate the legal obstacles of the EU-Turkey deal. According to law in the European Union a “safe third country” has to have signed the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees without reservations. The European Commission now merely talks of “equivalent protection” to the Convention. That amounts to admitting that Turkey does not meet the necessary conditions now. The required protection is not available in Turkey: The Convention does not apply to refugees from Syria, Iraq and other non-European countries.,,,,

We continue to say no to this dirty deal with Turkey! Together with our partner organizations in Europe we will advocate for protection applicants in the Aegean not to be mere objects of a European return mechanism."

Greece: Are You Syrious (link, 9.4.16)::

"According to the Government sources, at 8AM today there were 52,953 refugees stranded in Greece. There were 6,750 people stranded on the islands - 3,873 on Lesvos, 712 on Samos, 1,703 on Chios, 323 on Leros, 15 on Kos, 79 on Rodos, 15 on Kalymnos and 30 on Kastellorizo. The Government reports 14,398 in Attica region of whom 4,569 in Piraeus port. Further, there is 2,528 people in Central Greece and 340 in Southern Greece (in Kyllini Andravidas). Finally, the Government reports 28,937 in Northern Greece of whom 11,269 in Idomeni. Number of new arrivals on the islands in 24h period until 07:30am was 120, of which 116 on Lesvos and 4 on Samos...

Massive protest occurred in front of the EU 's offices in Athens. Greeks and refugees have united in their struggle against the EU-Turkey deal in Athens, flooding the streets of Greek capital with tons of positive energy and determination. Riot police with gas masks on didn't have to intervene as many kids in the rally passed by them.."

UNHCHR on 5.4.16: 151,104 arrivals in Greece, 19,340 in Italy. 711 deaths/missing. On 8 April 2016: Arrivals in Greece: 152,981 (up 1,877) in Italy: 19,326 (down 14) and 711 dead/missing (no change) Also Arrivals in Lesvos: last seven days

2/04/2016:   75
3/04/2016: 173
4/04/2016: 187
5/04/2016:     0
6/04/2016:     0
7/04/2016:   43
8/04/2016: 116
Total            594      

UNHCR: Daily Report (8.4.16):

"Out of the approximately 6,000 people who arrived to the Greek Islands since the 20 March, following the the EU-Turkey, at least 2,870 expressed interest to apply for asylum. The Greek authorities confirmed that they will not be returned as their applications need to be filed and assessed. Consequently, returns will take place at a slower rate than envisaged." and

"Rising tension and distress have been reported across Greece. Over the past week, several protests took place at Eidomeni, Piraeus, on the Thessaloniki-Evzonoi national highway, as well as across the islands. On Chios, UNHCR reports observing noteworthy limitations of asylum claims being processed following registration of intent; both processes are experiencing significant backlog. Due to uncertainty and lack of clarity, tension on the island manifested when 800 people left the vastly overcrowded facility last week which ultimately led to a march into Chios town. Yesterday, on Samos, reports show that approximately 200 people left the hotspot and were moving towards the center of Samos where they congregated peacefully. No violence was reported."

Greece-UK: Would YOU go as far as this mum has, to help a Facebook friend you've never met? (plymouthherald.co.uk, link):

"A year ago, Nina Coulson was a mum of six enjoying ordinary family life, until making Facebook friendships with rescuers hauling desperate refugees from the waters of the Greek island of Lesbos. The horror stories about what they've witnessed will move you and have changed Nina's life

Now, she runs a charity, UK Action for Refugees and has added remarkable teenage lifesaver Elleni Kempson to her brood. And she credits big-hearted Westcountry people for making a difference.

She says: 'I think this crisis has changed the face of charity in the UK. We're just people helping people.'

Greece: Fifth ICJ-ECRE Submission on the execution of M.S.S. v. Belgium & Greece (AIDA, link)

"ECRE and the International Commission of Jurists presented on 24 March 2016 a joint submission on the situation of the asylum procedure and reception conditions in Greece to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

The submission was presented in view of a meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on the implementation by Greece of the European Court of Human Rights’ judgment in the case of M.S.S. v Belgium and Greece that will take place next June."

See Joint submission (pdf)

Insight: Operation Sophia Before and After UN Security Council Resolution No 2240 (2015) (European Papers, link):

"It analyses the impact, on the Operation, of Security Council resolution No 2240 (2015), and the consequent Political and Security Committee Decision (CFSP) 2016/118 implementing the former. From a broader perspective, the insight briefly comments on the international politics behind the Operation and the role of the Union in this context. It also reflects on crucial legal issues raised by Council Decision (CFSP) 2015/778 like the place of persons captured and/or rescued on board ships participating in the Operation, the Council’s choice of the legal basis and the normative dimension of the Decision."

Europol agents deployed at Greek hot spots to filter out extremists, smugglers (ekathimerini.com, link): "European police agency Europol has deployed a team of undercover agents across Greece’s migrant registration centers, or hot spots, with the aim of stopping the infiltration of ISIS operatives and curbing the activity of other criminal networks, Kathimerini has learned.

In an interview with Kathimerini’s Sunday edition, Robert Crepinko, the Slovenian director of Europol’s newly-launched European Migrant Smuggling Center (EMSC), said that 10 undercover officers are currently stationed on the Aegean islands of Lesvos, Samos, Chios and Leros, as well as the port of Piraeus, with the task of checking suspicious immigrants against Europol’s databases in the Netherlands.

“Together with the Greek authorities we are doing secondary security checks to assess the possibly dangerous migrants before they would enter the EU,” Crepinko said."

Amnesty International: Refugees Detained Unlawfully on Greek Islands (Press Project, link):

"Refugees and migrants are detained unlawfully in dire conditions according to Amnesty International which was granted a permit by the Greek government to access the hotspots of Aegean islands, Chios and Lesvos.

“On the edge of Europe, refugees are trapped with no light at the end of the tunnel. A setup that is so flawed, rushed and ill-prepared is ripe for mistakes, trampling the rights and well-being of some of the most vulnerable people,” said Gauri van Gulik, Deputy Director for Europe at Amnesty International.

“People detained on Lesvos and Chios have virtually no access to legal aid, limited access to services and support, and hardly any information about their current status or possible fate. The fear and desperation are palpable.”

The open reception centers are now closed detention centers, where migrants and asylum seekers are automatically detained in groups, which is by definition arbitrary and therefore unlawful. In fact among them, there is a large number of pregnant women, children and babies." [emphasis added]

News (9-10.4.16)

Five migrants drawn off Samos after boat capsizes (ekathimerini.com, link): "Five migrants – four women and one child – drowned when their boat capsized off the Greek island of Samos close to Turkey’s coast, Greek coast guard officials said on Saturday. Five other migrants were rescued, the officials said, and coast guard vessels assisted by a helicopter were searching for more survivors.... Although flows have slowed, migrants continue to reach the Greek islands. Greek authorities said 149 had arrived on Lesvos, Samos and Chios in the 24 hours to Friday morning. "

Erdogan warns he will ditch refugee deal if EU breaks promises (euractiv, link): "Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned the European Union on Thursday (7 April) that Ankara would not implement a key deal on reducing the flow of refugees if Brussels fails to fulfil its side of the bargain"

Refugee crisis reaches Greece's western shores (DW, link): "The refugee crisis in Greece is making its impact felt even in areas far away from the islands of the Eastern Aegean and the country's northern borders. Pavlos Zafiropoulos reports from the Peloponnese."

Greece: Athens DNA lab helps trace those lost at sea on Aegean crossing (UNHCR, link): ""It is an obligation of our state and a mark of civilisation," said Miniati, who was promoted last month from head of the DNA service to oversee the entire criminology service. "If someone is not found and buried, the process of mourning cannot begin. It's as though the souls continue to hover." About 4,400 people have died in the Mediterranean since 2015. The refugee crisis has meant that the DNA lab, located in an Athens suburb, has gone from dealing with about 30 cases a year on average to as many as 70 in two days, as happened last summer after two major shipwrecks in as many days. From last year up to March 20 this year, Greek authorities reported 571 people dead or missing on the route from Turkey to Greece."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (8.4.16)
European Parliament: EU - Turkey migration deal: Civil Liberties MEPs push for answers (Press release, pdf):

"Civil Liberties MEPs quizzed the Commission on the conditions in the Greek reception facilities, the number and background of staff carrying out asylum interviews, returns and conditions for refugees in Turkey during this morning's debate on the EU-Turkey migration deal. MEPs also stressed the need to respect international law and live up to EU standards."

Statewatch Analysis: Commission proposals on migration and internal security databases: a new list of old "needs" (pdf) by Chris Jones

The Commission’s proposal to extend the fingerprinting of short-stay visa applicants to children from the ages of 6 and up is part of a list of possible “enhanced functionalities” (i.e. expanded uses) of the Visa Information System (VIS). These “functionalities” will be examined as part of a larger process of trying to beef up EU and national databases and information systems.

And see: EU calls for the fingerprinting of 6-year-old children

GREECE: Amnesty International: "Thousands of people" have been "arbitrarily detained" in detention centres (formerly "hotspots") on Lesvos and Chios

A new report from Amnesty International discusses the situation in Greece, following visits by the organisation to two detention centres (which used to be "hotspots"). It says that thousands of people have been arbitrarily detained pending removal (unless they manage apply for asylum) in the effort to implement the EU-Turkey deal.

See: Greece: Refugees detained in dire conditions amid rush to implement EU-Turkey deal (Amnesty International, link)

The report says:

"In Moria detention centre on Lesvos, Greek army and police exercise strict control over who goes in and out. The camp, which now houses around 3,150 people, is closed off from the outside world by several layers of fencing topped with barbed wire.

In VIAL detention centre on Chios, which is built around an abandoned aluminium factory, access is also tightly controlled. Security concerns linger following fierce clashes that broke out between different nationalities inside the camp overnight on 1 April, prompting more than 400 refugees and migrants to escape.

The majority of those who fled are now sleeping rough in and around the main port in downtown Chios. There is little security and scant access to basic services there."

There have been ugly scenes at the port as right-wing mobs have gathered outside and police have attempted to evacuate protesting refugees to a nearby camp. See: Refugees in Greece warn of suicides over EU-Turkey deal (The Guardian, link) and Bit of video from eviction of Chios port last night and numerous other tweets by Oscar Webb (Twitter, link).

The Amnesty report continues:

Only two of the refugees and migrants Amnesty International spoke to were able to show their detention orders based on their individual circumstances. Automatic, group-based detention is by definition arbitrary and therefore unlawful." (emphasis added)

Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty's Deputy Director for Europe, said:

"No asylum seeker should be automatically detained, and these detention centres on Lesvos and Chios are not in any way fit for purpose for the many young children, people with disabilities, or people with urgent medical needs we've met. They must be released immediately."

The extra labour promised as part of the EU-Turkey deal has so far not materialised:

"On 6 April the asylum service official who is the lone case worker at VIAL told Amnesty International the surge in applications is beyond his capacity to process. Out of 833 that had been filed he had processed only 10 - slightly over 1% - one of which was successful. While these cases were still processed under the old Greek asylum process, they indicate the extent of the current staffing shortfalls." (emphasis added)

Member States are so far falling short on providing some of the officials required, most notably interpreters - as of 6 April, they had provided 46 of the 400 requested. See: Statistics: implementing the EU-Turkey deal: "boots on the ground"

The Amnesty report makes numerous recommendations:

Member States are so far falling short on providing some of the officials required, most notably interpreters - as of 6 April, they had provided 46 of the 400 requested. See: Statistics: implementing the EU-Turkey deal: "boots on the ground"

Thousands of state officials from across Europe are supposed to be sent to Greece to help implement the EU-Turkey deal on refugees and migrants. This page gathers the statistics made available by the Commission on the process.

The numbers "pledged" are those offered by Member States, the requesting institution is the European Asylum Support Office or Frontex, as indicated.

6 April 2016: Member States remain either far less keen or far less able to provide interpreters, while the number of asylum officials requested for the operation has increased from 400 to 472. Amnesty International reported that during their visits on the 5 and 6 April, the VIAL detention centre in Moria had one asylum case worker.

The Commision help pledged to Greece does not include the provision of legal aid, lawyers, to advice refugees - they are entitled to independent legal represenatation.

Association Malienne des Expulsés: Statement on expulsions to Mali and EU migration policy (pdf): "Since the end of last year (2015), in Mali we are witnessing waves of expulsions, refoulements and repatriations of our migrants from Asia, Europe and even from the African continent. This recurring problem of refoulements, expulsions and repatriations of Malian migrants worsens on a daily basis and is becoming increasingly worrying. Thus, Malians are mainly expelled, refouled or repatriated from Saudi Arabia, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola, Libya, Spain and now also from Mauritania.

The fight against so-called illegal immigration represents a priority in the policy implemented by the European Union which presents this form of migration as a dangerous scourge which must be combated. This attitude by the European Union is constituted by focussing on the consequences without worrying about the root causes of the migration phenomenon. Thus, the reasons that push our fellow nationals to leave are well known, as they concern a lack of employment for young people, their difficult economic and professional conditions and, most of all, a lack of any prospects which affects their daily life.

The distinction or categorisation of migrants (between economic migrants and asylum seekers) by the EU is an incorrect reading of the situation which does not contribute to reducing the phenomenon of flows towards Europe."

From Right to Favor - The refugee question as moral crisis (The Nation, link):

"Since the November 13 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people and injured 350, and the New Year’s Eve melee in Cologne, where the police recorded 379 allegations of sexual assault and robbery, it has become increasingly difficult to have a sensible discussion about the refugee question in Europe. Even though the perpetrators of the Paris attacks were almost all French and Belgian citizens, and the suspects in Cologne were mostly Moroccans and Algerians, politicians, commentators, and citizens throughout Europe have pointed to the events to justify the rejection of asylum seekers from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. They allege two things: a possible fifth column of terrorists traveling among the asylum seekers, and the impossibility of integrating these refugees into Western societies. What has been lost in the debate is the recognition that the recent influx of asylum seekers and the wave of anxiety it has generated have revealed the refugee question rather than having created it. Indeed, there is a long-standing distrust and hostility in Europe toward non-Europeans fleeing persecution and violence."

BLOCKING REFUGEES: FROM TURKEY TO LIBYA: Merkel, Hollande Warn Libya May Be Next Big Migrant Staging Area (Bloomberg, link): "The European Union may need an agreement with Libya to restrict refugee flows similar to one with Turkey as the North African country threatens to become the next gateway for migrants to Europe, the leaders of Germany and France said.

“If we can establish the same with Libya as what we’re working on with Turkey, as well as on our own borders: we have much to do,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after talks with French President Francois Hollande in Metz, France, on Thursday. “Huge numbers of refugees could make their way again to Malta, to Italy, tens of thousands of people,” Hollande said.

The EU last month reached an agreement with Turkey to stem the flow of migrants to Greece, raising the possibility that human traffickers will return to their previous favorite route from Libya across the Mediterranean Sea to Sicily. The United Nations brokered a unity government to end the chaos that swept Libya after the ouster of Moammar Qaddafi in 2011, but powerful factions, especially in the east, haven’t endorsed the plan."

Migrants are Central Europe’s new Roma (Politico, link): "There’s something familiar about the anti-migrant language being used by politicians across Central Europe: It’s almost the same as the traditional attacks on the Roma, long the region’s most despised minority.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán justified his reluctance to accept Muslim migrants by arguing his country is already unduly burdened by its Roma population.

Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico played on familiar stereotypes about Roma as self-isolating and dependent upon welfare when he insisted “90 percent” of asylum seekers arriving in Europe last September were “economic migrants.”

On the campaign trail ahead of this month’s parliamentary election, Fico repeatedly insisted Muslims would be “impossible to integrate” while vowing to prevent the creation of a “compact community” of migrants."

Positive alternative proposals (Silence of Eternity, link): "There are comprehensive sets of better alternative practical proposals, but quite rightly, they’re complex, systematically radically different, meticulously researched, evidenced and reasoned, so selling them to the public is going to be a long hard slog."

Five reasons why the EU-Turkey deal is a disgrace (Norwegian Refugee Council, link): "How the EU-Turkey deal is being implemented is a disgrace to Europe. Here are five reasons why it must be stopped now:

1. The rights of the refugees are in jeopardy
2. Greece does not have the capacity to ensure fair asylum hearings
3. Asylum seekers are kept in detention
4. Europe is not taking its fair share of responsibility
5. The deal may push people towards more dangerous routes "

News (8.4.16)

French, Germans & Italians overwhelmingly in favor of abandoning border-free Europe – poll (RT, link)

Nearly one-third of Turkey's wall along Syria complete - Out of 911-kilometer (559.2-mile) long rocket-resistant wall, 300 kilometers (186.4 miles) is complete, Turkish security sources say (aa.com.tr/en/turkey, link)

Frontex intercepts refugees travelling from Turkey to Greece (NRT, link): "CHIOS, Greece – People attempting to reach Greece from Turkey onboard smugglers boats were picked up by officers from the European Union's (EU) border agency Frontex early on Thursday (April 7) and brought to shore on the Greek island of Chios.Two Frontex vessels full of refugees docked at Chios port, with many children among the rescued. They were intercepted off the eastern shores of the island in dinghies, local authorities said, and would be taken to the "VIAL" holding center, where others have been held since March 20."

Questions mount over EU’s role in processing asylum requests (Irish Times, link): "Under the new regime created by the EU-Turkey agreement, asylum applications from island detainees must be processed within two weeks, in a fast-tracked time frame that includes the appeal process. Previously, the Greek asylum service took an average of three months to adjudicate on each application.

A key aspect sees the European Asylum Support Office (Easo), another EU agency, advise overburdened Greek asylum officials on the “admissibility” of each asylum seeker at the initial stage of processing. Easo spokesman Jean Pierre Schembri told the BBC: “This is a relatively short process involving our experts … accessing every applicant on his or her own merits. We then issue an opinion and the Greek authorities then issue the final decision.”

But human rights organisations fear the outcome of this truncated, two-step process, where Greek officials will essentially sign off on Easo recommendations, is predetermined to result in most applicants being returned to Turkey, a “safe third country” according to the agreement."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (7.4.16)
EU-TURKEY "DEAL" ILLEGAL: The Agreement between the European Council and Turkey of 17/18 March is illgal: It seriously violates European law and radically betrays the EU’s and Italy’s judicial culture (pdf)

"The agreement of 17/18 March 2016 is a decision by the heads of state and of the governments of the EU which runs contrary to the European law that is in force. The violations which have been recorded are numerous, including the following,,," (read):

Signed by: Arci, Asgi, Federazione delle Chiese Evangeliche in Italia, Centro Astalli, FOCUS - Casa dei Diritti Sociali, Medici per i Diritti Umani, Consiglio Italiano per i rifugiati (CIR), SenzaConfine

ITALY: The truth about the hotspot system – violations and illegality in Lampedusa (pdf):

"Over the last few weeks, dozens of people from Mali, Gambia, Pakistan, Somalia, Eritrea and Nigeria arrived in Palermo, as well as in Catania and other Sicilian cities, in possession of a deferred refusal of entry order which requires that they leave Italian territory from the border crossing in Rome’s Fiumicino [airport] within 7 days. They all come from Lampedusa, where they arrived after being intercepted at sea and taken onto the island.

These migrants have not been allowed to apply for international protection, although they had managed to contact UNHCR. They tell us that they were informed of the possibility of applying for asylum, without having any way to do so in practice.

Instead, they tell us they were forced to sign a form whose content they did not understand because they did not speak the language it was written in (while at the bottom of the order, absurdly, the phrase ‘the interested party refuses to sign’ is always present as these forms are prepared and pre-printed in bulk)...."

First signatories: Borderline Sicilia Onlus, Borderline-Europe, Centro salesiano Santa Chiara di Palermo, Circolo Arci Porco Rosso di Palermo, Ciss – Cooperazione Internazionale Sud Sud, Comitato Antirazzista Cobas (Palermo), Comitato NoMuos/NoSigonella, Forum Antirazzista di Palermo, La città Felice(Ct) – Le città vicine, L’Altro Diritto Sicilia, Laici Missionari Comboniani, Palermo Senza Frontiere, Rete Antirazzista Catanese

To sign up: forumantirazzistadipalermo@gmail.com

EU: Council of the European Union: EU "returns"document

- Draft Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on a European travel document for the return of illegally staying third-country nationals (LIMITE doc no: 7172-16, pdf):

The EU hopes third countries will accept this, many have not in the past: It is defined as:

"The document shall be valid for a single journey to the third country of return."

EU calls for the fingerprinting of 6-year-old children

On Wednesday the European Commission set out its plans to expand EU and national databases "to allow effective management of migration and to contribute to internal security." One of the myriad ways this could be done is by "collecting fingerprints of children between the age of 6 and 12 years old" who enter the EU on short-stay visas.

See: page 9 of European Commission, Stronger and Smarter Information Systems for Borders and Security, COM(2016) 205 final, 6 April 2016

Refugees in Greece warn of suicides over EU-Turkey deal (Guardian, link): "Afghans and Syrians on Chios say policy will lead to ‘terrible scenes’, as concerns grow over 13 deported ‘by mistake’... Afghans and Syrians detained in a camp on the Greek island of Chios say they will kill themselves if they are expelled from the EU under its migration deal with Turkey. On Monday, 202 migrants were forcibly returned from Lesbos and Chios to the Turkish coast under the landmark deal aimed at halting “irregular” migration to Europe.

But Souaob Nouri from Kabul, who is held in the high-security camp in Chios, said: “If they deport us, we will kill ourselves. We will not go back.”A man next to him warned of “terrible scenes” if Greek authorities insisted on pursuing policies that have already caused alarm among human rights groups."

UNHCR Daily Report: 6.4.16: "In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Law on Asylum and Temporary Protection was amended at a Parliamentary session held on 4 April. The amendments introduce two restrictions of concern to UNHCR: one on family reunification stating that a refugee can exercise the right to family reunification only after three years from when asylum was granted; and another regarding the introduction of safe third country concept with the specification that an asylum claim submitted by a person who seeks to enter or have illegally entered the territory of the Republic of Macedonia from a safe third country, country – member of the EU, country – member of NATO or country – member of EFTA is considered to be manifestly unfounded. " [emphasis added] and:

And on 7.4.16: "Nikos Xydakis, Greek junior foreign minister for European affairs, indicated there would likely be few people returned to Turkey over the next two weeks. The majority of persons present in the hotspots have lodged asylum claims which need to be processed before any further steps can be taken. Out of 3,097 refugees and migrants currently detained at Moria, Lesvos’ hotspot, an estimated 3,083 have expressed intention to apply for asylum."

EU: Council of the European Union: Standard Operating Procedures implementing the mechanism for resettlement from Turkey to the EU as set out in the EU-Turkey Statement of 18 March 2016 (LIMITE doc no: 7462-16, pdf). All sorts of additions and deletions.

Electra (link) Comments: "UNHCR participating as a PIVOTAL FACTOR in the procedure of Syrians' "trade" (one to come, one to go). All refugees having entered "irregularly" EU will not have a chance to enter it again "regularly". Eligible: will only be those having asked for temporary protection in Turkey BEFORE LAST DECEMBER. The population already here, if returned, has no chance to step on EU ground again."

UK: Interpreting services within immigration removal centres (IRR News, link): "The lack of trained interpreters inside of immigration detention exacerbates fear, mistrust and depression and has contributed to a number of deaths."

Are You Syrious (6.4.16, link)

"Officially, over the last 24 hours, 68 new arrivals were registered in Greece, 1 on Samos, 55 on Chios and 12 on Kos. According to the Government sources, at 8am there were 53,042 refugees stranded in Greece. There were 6,384 people stranded on the islands - 3,560 on Lesvos, 743 on Samos, 1,776 on Chios, 93 on Leros, 69 on Kos, 81 on Rodos, 15 on Kalymnos and 47 on Kastellorizo. The Government reports 14,797 in Attica of whom 4,720 in Piraeus, 2,566 people in Central Greece and 340 in Southern Greece (in KylliniAndravidas). Finally, the Government reports 28,955 in Northern Greece, including 11,269 in Idomeni.".

Greece: Pressure mounts at Piraeus port between officials, volunteers (ekathimerini.com, link):

"While government authorities were trying to convince migrants and refugees stranded at Piraeus port to move to other shelters around the country Wednesday, harbor officials there lashed out at volunteers for allegedly encouraging refugees to demand the opening of European Union borders, despite last month’s deal between Brussels and Ankara to deport migrants back to Turkey....

In a statement issued Wednesday, the Piraeus Port Authority alleged that there are people there “that are obstructing the plan to transfer refugees and migrants to organized shelters” and urged judicial authorities to intervene so the law is upheld."

Is the EU-Turkey refugee and migration deal a treaty (EU Law Analysis, link) "That the institutional role of the EP has been neglected confirms the worrying trend that intergovernmental decision-making is taking over in the Union, and that national interests increasingly often prevail over the common values of the Union. This is bad for European democracy." and see: Why Turkey is Not a “Safe Country” (Statewatch Analysis)

EU-Turkey deal undermines international law and human rights (Green/EFA group in EP, limk): "Green migration spokesperson Judith Sargentini added:

"The deal with Turkey has led to inhumane conditions for refugees and is in contravention with European and international law. The Geneva Convention, which was created in Europe, is being undermined. Under pressure from EU leaders, those seeking protection in Greece are being detained in inhumane conditions. These deportation centres are at odds with international obligations on the protection of refugees and European law.

"The democratic legitimacy of the agreement with Turkey is also highly questionable. Despite the fact that the European Parliament has full co-decision powers in the area of asylum and refugee policy, this deal was signed, sealed and implemented with no involvement of the parliament. The deal must be ended without delay.""

EU plans drone fleet to track migrants - Countries are divided over who would control the remotely piloted aircraft.(politico, link):

"Drones controlled by the EU will soon be flying across the continent under a European Commission plan to keep track of migrants arriving on Mediterranean shores.

The Commission says it needs its own fleet of remotely piloted aircraft systems to spot small refugee boats, as well as to enforce emissions standards and monitor ship safety elsewhere in Europe".

News (7.4.16)

EU: No More Blanket Deportations of Migrants (Greek Reporter, limk): "As Turkey prepared to receive a second group of migrants deported from Greece this week, European Union officials pledged there would be “no automatic return” for the migrants before they are given a chance to apply for asylum. The announcement follows angry protests by international human rights activists who have accused the EU of denying migrants the basic rights of refugees to seek asylum as the deportations began from the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios Monday."

Opinion: The illusion of a common EU asylum policy (DW, link): "The EU's current asylum system may not be enough in future, as the Commission has said. Yet their proposals for reform won't find a majority among the EU states, Christoph Hasselbach predicts."

Italy Rescues 300 on Boat from Egypt (Migrant Report, link): "The Italian Coastguard launched an overnight rescue on Thursday to rescue some 300 migrants from a vessel that left from Egypt." and Arrivals in Central Med up 300% in March (link)

Proposed new asylum rules elicit swift negative response from Prague (Radio Praha, link):"Amidst a deepening refugee crisis in Europe, the EC on Wednesday proposed new common asylum rules that would replace the so-called Dublin Regulation, under which people must claim asylum in the first EU state they enter. The two options proposed both envisage an automatic redistribution of migrants which the Czech Republic has consistently rejected."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (6.4.16)
‘Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem vile’: Towards a third phase of the Common European Asylum System? (link) by Steve Peers, Professor of Law. University of Essex:

" Overall, this is a very disappointing paper from the Commission. There are certainly abuses of the asylum system, but EU legislation already has many possibilities to address them, as regards fast-tracking decisions and appeals, reduced benefits and detention. There’s little evidence here of a balanced, rational and coherent response to the crisis. In fact, this looks rather more like panic.

Of course EU asylum law does not develop in a political vacuum. Member States had a key role agreeing these laws, and the main role implementing them and driving the reaction to the crisis. No criticism of the ‘EU response to the crisis’ should ignore what is ultimately driving that response: the neo-nationalist political parties which are in government in several Member States and form the main opposition in several more. But is endless concessions to these parties really the right strategy? They will always be able to outflank the political mainstream when it comes to anger, fear and ignorance. It’s always better to stand and fight for what you really believe in than to pretend to agree with your opponents’ fundamentally different views."

Shoot The Moon - Lesvos, Greece: Week 8 (madisondarbyshire.com, link):

"I don’t want to forget the anguish in the voice of a mother who has lost her baby in the sea.
I don’t want to forget the feeling of numb fingers, frozen from picking up wet clothing off the ground.
I don’t want to forget the softness of a toddler’s arms on my shoulders as I dressed them.
I don’t want to forget the bright taste of fried cauliflower in lemon sauce, prepared so skillfully by a Syrian chef who helped us to cook for dozens of refugees before sitting down to feed his own family.

I don’t want to forget the kick of sweetened chai tea on my tongue during a long afternoon.
I don’t want to forget the heat of a tightly bundled baby in my arms.
I don’t want to forget the smell of hundreds of bodies packed together into tents, families huddled together in groups, or the singular scent of clothing when it is the only set a person has.

I don’t want to forget that there are people who need help, and there is a world worth fighting for.
I don’t want to forget that there are people in this world who will drop everything— careers, mortgages, degrees— to pour themselves into a crisis.

I don’t want to forget the relief on the faces of those who made it here safely. I don’t want to forget the torment on the faces of those who left everyone they love behind. I don’t want to forget the terror and sadness of those who were turned away.

I don’t want to forget that this world is closer to my own than it is far away.
I don’t want to forget that I have the choice to go home, to choose a life for myself, and that is an unbelievable privilege.

These are the things I will fight with all my might to remember. We all will."

European Commission: Press releases & Communications: 6 April 2016

- Commission presents options for reforming the Common European Asylum System and developing safe and legal pathways to Europe (Press release, pdf) and Communication: Towards a reform of the Common European Asylum System and enhancing legal avenues to Europe (COM 197, pdf)

- Stronger and Smarter Borders in the EU: Commission proposes to establish an Entry-Exit System (Press release, pdf): Communication (COM 194, pdf), Annexes 1-2 (pdf) and Staff Working Document: 114 (pdf)

- Regulation: amending Regulation (EU) 2016/399 as regards the use of the Entry/Exit System (COM 196, pdf) and COM 196: Annex 1 (pdf)

- Commission launches discussion on future framework for stronger and smarter information systems for border management and internal security (Press release, pdf) Communication: COM 205-16 (pdf) and Smart Borders Package: Questions & Answers (pdf)

- Security: EU strengthens response to hybrid threats (pdf): "The European Commission and the High Representative adopted today a Joint Framework to counter hybrid threats and foster the resilience of the EU, its Member States and partner countries while increasing cooperation with NATO on countering these threats. In recent years, the EU and its Member States have been increasingly exposed to hybrid threats that comprise hostile actions designed to destabilise a region or a state."

and see: Joint Framework on countering hybrid threats a European Union response (Commission and EEAS, pdf): Incliudes the need for a "EU Fusion Cell":

"While definitions of hybrid threats vary and need to remain flexible to respond to their evolving nature, the concept aims to capture the mixture of coercive and subversive activity, conventional and unconventional methods (i.e. diplomatic, military, economic, technological), which can be used in a coordinated manner by state or non-state actors to achieve specific objectives while remaining below the threshold of formally declared warfare.... Massive disinformation campaigns, using social media to control the political narrative or to radicalise, recruit and direct proxy actors can be vehicles for hybrid threats.,,,

Hybrid threats aim to exploit a country’s vulnerabilities and often seek to undermine fundamental democratic values and liberties." [emphasis added] Comment: . In the latter objective the EU itself is doing a pretty good job of doing this to itself.

Erdogan’s not mad, he’s ruthless (euractiv, link): "If Erdogan is going to become the single centre of power in Turkey, he must crush his domestic opposition and the PKK. And with the Europeans paying him to handle their refugee problem, he is not isolated from the world. He is not mad. He is quite calculating and logical, albeit ruthless."

UNHCR Map of "camps" in Greece: (pdf) Note the increasing number on the mainland.- will they become detention centres?

With new deal, a refugee’s rights come down to luck (Reuters, link):

"LESBOS, Greece — Through a barbed wire fence, 17-year-old Syrian refugee Asma attempted to tell us about her journey to Greece. We didn’t have much time to listen. Greek police officers were breathing down our necks, threatening to arrest us unless we left."

Pope set to visit refugees in Greece as deportations stall (euractiv, link): "Pope Francis will travel to the Greek island of Lesbos on the frontline of Europe’s refugee crisis next week, Athens announced yesterday (5 April), as a controversial EU accord to send migrants back to Turkey stalled.

The trip by the pope, who will be accompanied by the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church, is likely to pile pressure on EU leaders already facing criticism over the controversial deal struck last month." and

Red Cross questions Turkey refugees deal (euractiv, link): "EXCLUSIVE / Francesco Rocca, the vice-president of the International Red Cross Federation, questioned the European Union’s controversial refugee repatriation agreement with Ankara on the first day refugees started being sent back to Turkey, EurActiv.com has learned.... Rocca expressed his views during a private meeting with the EU’s Regional Policy Commissioner Corina Cre?u on Monday (4 April). The rare broadside from the Red Cross, which usually refrains to criticise member states in which it operates..."

Helping Refugees Together by Peter Sutherland (project-syndicate.org, link):

"This year is likely to be the most momentous for refugee protection and migration since the signing of the Geneva Convention in 1951. Depending on the choices we make, we will either help create more open societies, based on greater international cooperation, or we will abet authoritarian governments and their nationalist agendas. So we must treat this issue with exceptional urgency and seriousness of purpose. "

Are You Sryious (link)

"Two deported refugees, Pakistanis who arrived yesterday in Turkey "inaugurating" the agreement between the European Union and Turkey attempted suicide when they arrived in current center for returnees. The reason for that was attempted and requested political asylum, for which their application was rejected immediately. One of them passed away later at a Turkish hospital."

"Pakistani refugees at Lesvos? told volunteers that police were arresting all Pakistani refugees, even those who claimed an asylum. Thus, refugees were protesting at Moria. At Chios, there are rumours about the deportations of refugees despite the fact that they claimed they wanted to claim asylum. Also, from several cases, volunteers got the impression that the deportations happen in a super-arbitrary way. Twice, volunteers claim, refugees almost got deported because they were standing "in the wrong crowd." Finally, Vincent Cochetel, director of UNHCR’s Europe bureau, said on Tuesday that 13 Afghans and Congolese asylum seekers who reached the Greek island of Chios after 20 March, and who were deported back to Turkey on Monday, had not been allowed to formally register their asylum claims due to administrative chaos on the island."

"Number of new arrivals on the islands in 24h period until 07:30am was 225, of which 187 on Lesvos, 20 on Samos and 18 on Kastellorizo. Significant free spaces according to official capacity: Leros 900, Elleniko Baseball 150, Ritsona 140, Thermopylae 110, Koutsochero 100, Diavata 230, Nea Kavala 460, Nea Karvali 250, Kozani 180, Nea Chrani 110, Doliana 200, Katsikas 380, Alexandria 890." [emphasis added]

UNHCR Daily report: (5.4.16)

"On 2 April, the Austrian Defense Minister, Hans Peter Doskozil, said that Austria will soon impose higher border controls along the Italian border and is likely to deploy military personnel in the area. According to the statement, the troops would help protect the border, administer aid as well as register and deport migrants. The EU Chief Spokesperson, Margaritis Schinas, said that Austria will not violate any Schengen rules if it imposes stricter border controls along the Italian border."

"UNHCR is concerned however, that 13 individuals (including some Afghans) among those returned from Chios had indicated to UNHCR their intention to apply for asylum, but may not have had the opportunity to formally register their intention with local authorities. Meanwhile, on the Aegean islands, many media reports are seen with persons complaining of not being given sufficient time and access to the asylum procedure. It is to be noted that about 4,000 migrants and refugees are being detained on Greek islands since the agreement came into effect March 20."

"The number of refugee arrivals in Italy this year is already 80% higher than in the same period in 2015. At the UN’s Geneva conference on Syrian refugees last Wednesday (30 March), Italy’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Paolo Gentiloni, announced that 3,700 people had been rescued over the previous five days alone. Gentiloni put the total number of asylum seekers having made the crossing in the first three months of 2016 at 18,234."

News (6.4.16)

Greece sees two-week lag in migrant returns to Turkey, says official (ekathimerini.com): "A last-minute flurry of asylum applications by migrants desperate to avoid expulsion from Greece to Turkey will likely cause a two-week “lag” in an EU deportation plan slammed by rights groups, a Greek official said Wednesday.... Out of around 6,000 migrants who have arrived on the islands of Chios and Lesvos after the March 20 deadline, more than 2,300 have now applied for asylum. And many others had previously complained of not having had access to the asylum procedure."

Protesters clash with police at Italian-Austrian border (dailysabah.com, link): "talian demonstrators clashed with Austrian police on Sunday when they crossed the Brenner Pass border to protest against Austria's plans to enforce controls to limit the passage of migrants. Some 500 human rights activists marched on the border Sunday, lighting flares and spraying "Welcome" on a sign announcing the passage to Austria. Austrian police said they detained around 50 protests for throwing stones at officers, injuring five, and vandalizing property. Police used batons and pepper spray to drive back the protesters, according to reports in the Austrian media. An Austrian official was also quoted in the German media as saying that Austria will deploy soldiers to the borders to ensure that an expected influx through Italy won't make it north."

EU to set out proposals for overhaul of European asylum rules (Guardian, link):

"European commission will publish paper suggesting changes after migration crisis left current Dublin regulation unworkable... The European commission will propose two options, which still have to be agreed by EU member states. The widely trailed option of scrapping the Dublin rules remains: under this proposal the EU would have a mandatory redistribution system for asylum seekers based on a country’s wealth and ability to absorb newcomers.

A second option would preserve the existing Dublin rules, but add a “corrective fairness mechanism” so refugees could be redistributed around the bloc in times of crisis to take the pressure off frontline arrival states."

Migrant arrivals on Greek islands slow to a trickle (ekathimerini.com, link): "New arrivals on the Greek islands facing Turkey dropped to 68 in the 24 hours to Wednesday morning from 225 the previous day, data from the migration ministry showed." and Turkish coast guard intercepts dozens of migrants on Aegean (ekathimerini.com, link):"The Turkish coast guard has apprehended dozens of migrants on the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece. About 60 people, including some Syrians, were brought to a coast guard station in the western province of Izmir on Wednesday.:"

Greece: Tensions flare at Piraeus Port as migrants refuse to evacuate makeshift camp (ekathimerini.com, link)::"Tensions flared at the Port of Piraeus, south of Athens, on Wednesday after authorities informed migrants and refugees who have for weeks found temporary shelter outside a passenger terminal that they will be transported to purpose-built camps near the capital."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (5.4.16)
Greece may have deported asylum seekers by mistake, says UN (Guardian, link): "Thirteen of 202 people returned to Turkey under EU migration deal may not have had chance to claim for asylum... Greek police “forgot” to process the asylum claims of 13 of the 202 asylum seekers sent back to Turkey on Monday, the first day the deal was put into practice, according to Vincent Cochetel, director of UNHCR’s Europe bureau.

On Tuesday, EU officials repeatedly avoided saying whether they will investigate the allegation, which threatens the legitimacy of the deportation deal"

Greece postpones return of next group of migrants until Friday, Turkish official says (ekathimerini.com, link): "Greece has postponed the return of the next group of migrants to Turkey under a deal with the European Union until Friday, a Turkish government official said on Tuesday, with no other deportees expected before then."

Greece’s New Asylum Legislation: What Will Change? (News That Moves, link):

"Appeals against a negative decision will be examined and processed with a final decision within 7 days by newly established Appeal Committees (see art. 60, page 44)

The appeals process is made on the basis of file examination without the presence of the applicant, and Appeals Committee decides whether the applicant will be interviewed or not. The seeker can still request to be interviewed two days before the appeal process starts (see art. 62, page 45)".

and see: Greece: asylum reform in the wake of the EU-Turkey deal (AIDA, link):

"Greek Law 4375/2016 was adopted under urgent procedure on Friday and entered into force yesterday, amid debate and speculation around the legal reforms needed for the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal of 18 March. The Law introduces a considerable number of changes to the institutional framework, the first reception procedures, the asylum procedure, the labour rights of beneficiaries of international protection, as well as the management of refugee flows in Greece.....

systematic detention of migrants and asylum seekers contravenes human rights standards and the EU asylum acquis, all the more so since the ground provided in Article 8(3)(c) of that Directive, relating to detention during a border procedure for the purpose of deciding on an applicant’s right to enter the territory, has not been transposed into Article 46 of Law 4375/2016."

Are You Syrious (4,4,16, link):

"Giorgos Kosmopoulos, head of Amnesty International in Greece stated today that "This is the first day of a very difficult time for refugee rights. Despite the serious legal gaps and lack of adequate protection in Turkey, the EU is forging ahead with a dangerous deal. Turkey is not a safe third country for refugees. The EU and Greek authorities know this and have no excuse.""

"Number of new arrivals on the islands in 24h period until 07:30am was 339, of which 173 on Lesvos, 89 on Samos, 74 on Chios and 3 on Leros..."

The beginning of the end, or the start of something new? (Europes' Word, link) by Heaven Crawley:

"Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the EU remains utterly dependent on Turkey, where the security situation has deteriorated rapidly. The Turkish government has been notoriously bad at sticking to its end of the deal, leveraging an additional €3bn out of the EU by allowing refugees and migrants to continue crossing the Aegean after promising to halt the flows. The EU-Turkey deal says that visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens travelling to the EU will take place in June at the latest, “provided that all benchmarks have been met”. But if at any stage things don’t go Turkey’s way, it’s likely that the route across the Aegean will simply open up again.

Over the next few days, weeks and months, we will get a clearer sense of whether this is the beginning of the end for Europe’s migration crisis or the start of something new. The stakes are high not just for those in search of protection, but for the future of the European Union itself." [emphasis added]

EU’s refugee detention centre on Lesbos is neither moral nor humane (Friends of Europe, link): by Kirsty Hughes:

"In a small valley covered with olive trees on the Greek island of Lesbos sits the Moria detention centre, where 2,800 asylum-seekers are locked inside a grim complex that has capacity for only 2,000 people. Behind grey concrete walls is first tall and rusty barbed-wire fencing, then newer fences topped with coiled razor wire. Riot police are gathered around a bus outside. I take some photos at the side of the camp – two policemen jump out of an ordinary car and tell me to delete them.

The EU clearly wants to show it is within the law in how it manages asylum claims, and that each individual will have a right of appeal. Whether this will happen in any genuine way is an open question for now, when the known intention is to declare almost all applications inadmissible. It will at best be lip service in terms of legality. I put this to regional UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch. He said the whole strategy “will be a burden on the EU’s conscience”. The question remaining is, perhaps, whether the EU has a conscience any more." [emphasis added]

So the Greece deportations are going ‘smoothly’? Take a closer look by Apostolis Fotiadis (Guardian, link):

"The first refugees have been returned under the EU-Turkey deal, and there are already concerns about coercion and force being used.

As it turns out, more than 90% of people arriving in Greek islands since 20 March – when the EU-Turkey deal was enacted – have opted for asylum, thus complicating their return under the arrangement. It is no surprise then that no further dates have been announced for future deportations.....

In one case yesterday at a pre-removal centre in Chios, police faced angry protesters among those rounded up to be deported. Videos have emerged in which detainees appear to scream “no deport” and “shame on Europe”. It is unclear to what degree the deportees have been coerced to comply with operational procedures.

Such evidence is important in order to pose questions about the future of the deal. How much coercion and force will become necessary when people really start resisting deportations? How will the EU follow up the nasty details of the process when Frontex does not have a complaints mechanism to carry out inquiries into violations? What will be the limits for NGOs and international organisations before they become complicit?" [emphasis added]

LIBYA: Five Migrants Dead, 15 Injured After Detention Centre Escape (Migrant Report, link): "At least five African migrants are dead and 15 injured, some of them seriously after guards at a detention in the coastal town of Zawiya opened fire during a mass escape early on Saturday morning."

Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals at 172,089; Deaths 714 (IOM, link): 2016: Arrivals in Greece 152,133 and in Italy: 19,287. UNHCR: 151,104 arrivals in Greece, 19,340 in Italy. 711 deaths/missing.

Frontex: Risk Analysis for 2016 (15 MB, pdf) Border control, refugees and the new Border Agency

News (5.4.16)

Asylum rush hampers second wave of migrant expulsions from Greece (DJ, link): "A last-minute rush of asylum applications hampered operations Tuesday to return migrants from Greece to Turkey under an EU deal, as the UN watchdog voiced concern for 13 individuals sent back the day before.... Out of around 6,000 migrants who arrived on the islands after a deadline of March 20, more than 2,300 had applied for asylum, he said."

Greece pauses deportations as asylum claims mount (ekathimerini.com, link):

"Authorities in Greece have temporarily suspended deportations to Turkey and acknowledged that most migrants and refugees detained on Greek islands have applied for asylum.....

Maria Stavropoulou, director of Greece’s Asylum Service, told state TV that some 3,000 people held in deportation camps on the islands are seeking asylum, with the application process to formally start by the end of the week.

She says asylum applications typically take about three months to process, but would be “considerably faster” for those held in detention".

Austria: Protestors demand end to ‘fortress Europe’ as Austria ups border security (euractiv, link): "The closure of the so-called Balkan route means refugees are now looking for alternative ways to reach Germany. Central European countries now want to work together better in order to coordinate their respective policies."

How Europe built fences to keep people out (Reuters, link) : "In early March, Europe's migration chief Dimitris Avramopoulos squelched through a muddy refugee camp on Greece's border with Macedonia and peered through the barbed-wire topped fence that stands between tens of thousands of migrants in Greece and richer countries that lie to the north. "By building fences, by deploying barbed wire," he said, "it is not a solution.".... Greece's border fence was one of the first, and Avramopoulos still defends it. He says Greece built it to divert people towards official crossings where they could apply for asylum."

Greece: Pakistani Migrants In Lesbos Camp Protest (Sky News, link): "Dozens of Pakistani migrants at a detention camp on the Greek island of Lesbos have staged a protest amid fears they will be sent to Turkey in the coming days."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (2-4.4.16)
Greece: Aid agency denounces ‘politicisation’ of humanitarian assistance (euractiv, link):

"UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi invited representatives from 92 countries to a special summit in Geneva last week in order to address the ongoing crisis. EurActiv Germany spoke to Oxfam’s Robert Lindner, whose organisation presented an update on the current situation at the summit.

Oxfam has withdrawn from Lesbos, like other aid agencies have from other hotspots in Greece. Why?

The hotspots have been converted into detention centres because of the EU-Turkey agreement. Therefore, other aid agencies have withdrawn from Lesbos and Idomeni. We can no longer operate simply on humanitarian principles. These camps are now run by officials from the Greek Ministry of the Interior. It’s no longer about supplying these people with the basic necessities, it’s a matter of deporting them as soon as possible back to Turkey. We are not talking about humanitarian agencies here, but the police. Outside of these detention centres, we are of course still active."

First "easy cases" arrive in Turkey after deportation from Greek islands begins

On the day the EU-Turkey deal comes into force, over 130 people have been deported from Greece. They arrived in the port of Dikili this morning after being deported from the islands of Lesvos and Chios on boats staffed by Frontex officers, Turkish officials and Greek riot police. Those on board were "mostly Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Moroccans who were already being deported to Turkey before the deal's creation," according to a report in The Guardian, but there were also apparently two Syrians on board, "including a woman who had volunteered to return." The BBC reports that Sri Lankan nationals were also deported.

BORDER GUARD: European Parliament Study: The proposal for a European Border and Coast Guard: evolution or revolution in external border management? (pdf):

"The proposal significantly reinforces Frontex’s regulatory and operational tasks and provides the Agency with an additional supervisory role. The proposal does not amend the fundamental premise of operational cooperation at the external borders, reserving executive enforcement powers to the Member States. Nonetheless, the concept of shared responsibility in the absence of shared accountability increases existing fundamental rights concerns."

And see: Regulation on a European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Statewatch European Documentation Centre (SEMDOC) Full documentation of Commission, Council and EP documents.

Also:EU border guard: Council documents including "guidance for further work, new European Parliament study

"EU started biggest official human trafficking in human history!" Turkish campaigners protest today's deportations" (link)

Facebook: Electra (link): "Greece has not ratified the ECHR Protocol forbidding collective explulsions. Most countries participating in Frontex, though, HAVE. Our governments must be held accountable for this crime."

Comment: Steve Peers: "Every other EU country except the UK has ratified the Fourth Protocol. And surely Greece is covered by the ban on collective expulsion where there is a link to EU law (as there is in asylum cases), due to the EU Charter."


"Returnwatch monitors risks that forced returnees from the European Union face upon arrival in Turkey. We are an initiative of volunteers and researchers who operate under the umbrella of the Post-Deportation Monitoring Network.

This website aims to be an accessible and practical tool for people to reach us after having been forcibly returned to Turkey. We seek to connect returnees to Turkey with lawyers and human rights NGOs in Turkey, as well as to document the procedures implemented by Turkish authorities.

Forced returns to Turkey are expected to start on the 4th of April from Greece and by the 1st of June 2016 from other European Union member states."

Greece: 'No-one intends to go peacefully' (BBC WS, link with video): "Greece is preparing to deport hundreds of migrants back to Turkey today. Their deportations from the islands of Chios and Lesbos is part of a deal between Turkey and the European Union to stem the flow of migrants to Europe. Under the deal, migrants arriving illegally in Greece will be sent back to Turkey if they do not apply for asylum or if their claim is rejected. But questions remain as to how the arrangement is going to be implemented. Electra Koutra is a Greek asylum lawyer working with refugees in the camps in Greece:"

Greece begins refugee deportations under EU plan (ekathimerini.com, link): "Under heavy security, authorities on the Greek islands of Lesvos and Chios deported 202 migrants and refugees on boats bound for Turkey – the first to be sent back as part of a controversial European Union plan to limit the amount of migration to Europe.

The operation that started at dawn, as migrants were escorted onto small ferries by officers from the EU border protection agency, Frontex, to nearby ports on the Turkish coast, under the program which has been strongly criticized by human rights groups.

"All of the migrants returned are from Pakistan except for two migrants from Syria who returned voluntarily," Giorgos Kyritsis, a spokesman for a government refugee crisis committee, told state TV....

""This is the first day of a very difficult time for refugee rights. Despite the serious legal gaps and lack of adequate protection in Turkey, the EU is forging ahead with a dangerous deal," Giorgos Kosmopoulos, head of Amnesty International in Greece, told the Associated Press from Lesvos.

"Turkey is not a safe third country for refugees. The EU and Greek authorities know this and have no excuse.""

See also: The final EU/Turkey refugee deal: a legal assessment (EU Law Analysis, link) and: Why Turkey is Not a “Safe Country” (pdf)

Report from Lesvos: 2 April 2016: Electra (FB, link)

"The new law has passed last night. Mass deportation of 750 by tomorrow. 148 detained Pakistanees in Moria (although they are PRE-21 May arrivals).

They thought they were waiting in detention to be transfered to Germany. When some realized they were going to be returned to Turkey, they tried to ask for asylum but were anounced "it is forbidden". Local lawyer had to threaten with reporters to achieve some "expressions for wish to request asylum" registered. The local Asylum Office (reportedly functioning with 2 officers for registrations of asylum claims) is already "booked until the end of May".

People in wheelchair, children and adults, many sleeping on blankets they put on the floor, are all within the population to be deported. The authorities don't announce WHO of these persons will be among the first 750. Noone has been specifically notified that they are "leaving tomorrow".

Lesvos is currently an island. Not only in geophysical terms. It is a space where the rule of law, where respect for fundamental rights does not apply. We call Europe to stop this crime before it is too late.
" [emphasis added]

Wrong counts and closing doors: The reception of refugees and asylum seekers in Europe (AIDA, pdf):

"The year 2015 has been marked as a turning point in Europe’s struggle to find adequate responses to the predicament of refugees. The unprecedented number of refugees and migrants arriving irregularly to the continent via the Mediterranean Sea, surpassing one million, and the piecemeal, reactive, often irrational response of Member States, led to coining the term “refugee crisis” as currently one of the most critical tests for the European Union (EU) and its broader region. Against this backdrop, one main issue of concern has been the ability – or lack thereof – of states to receive those seeking refuge in appropriate, dignified conditions as mandated by their protection obligations. "

Greece: Symbolic first step for EU deportation deal – but true test is still to come (Guardian, link):

"Operation to remove 202 people from Greece to Turkey passes unexpectedly calmly, but observers say these were easy cases...

Journalists and activists were caught off-guard by police deploying buses to collect detainees on Lesbos and Chios at the crack of dawn, several hours earlier than announced.

“It is absolutely mind-boggling that neither the media nor human rights organisations had access to the detention facilities to monitor the asylum procedures,” said a Human Rights Watch spokesman, Wenzel Michalski, at the main port on Lesbos where, hours earlier, 136 “non asylum seekers” had been put on boats and expelled to Turkey. “What do they have to hide?” he asked....

Monitors with Amnesty International on Lesbos said the test would come in the weeks ahead when the eyes of the global media were no longer on Lesbos or Dikili across the sea.

“The most important thing now is what happens to those in Moria who have applied for asylum and fear that they are next,” said Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty’s deputy Europe director. “It’s what happens when the media is not looking that will matter most.”

UNHC Report (1.4.16)

"Slovenia is subject to criticism over the handling of refugees in a report by the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC). The human rights body took issue in particular with the erection of the razor wire fence, expansion of army powers, and tighter rules for asylum seekers. In its periodic report on Slovenia's implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, UNHRC recommended that Slovenia "regularly review the necessity and proportionality of the measures adopted". The Committee also stated that the Slovenian government should ensure it does not discriminate against any asylum applicants solely on the basis of country of origin and safeguard individual processing of asylum applications."

Are You Srious reports (link): "According to volunteers, there were no new arrivals on the shores of Lesvos today.

However, there have been arrivals in the past few days and volunteers report that the Moria camp is so overcrowded that even families with children and pregnant women now sleep on the ground outside the compound, while Pakistani are being separated and taken away. Volunteers on Lesvos are asking for tents to accommodate them.

Lesvos Solidarity Camp (Pikpa) is a unique volunteer and refugee run camp, which was created in 2012 and is now under threat of closure. It has shelter to the most vulnerable refugees and supported the humanitarian needs of refugees all over the island and other parts of Greece. Following the EU Turkey Deal, the Mayor of Lesvos announced the closure of the camp, along with other solidarity built structures. Refugees will instead be held in closed detention centres run by the army and police. The camp hosts vulnerable refugees, including people with disabilities, lone women and children, and the families of shipwreck survivors. Over the past six months, around 2000 people have been sheltered at the camp. There are currently not enough reception facilities in Greece to look after fit and healthy refugees, let alone those in need of immediate care.

For this reason, volunteers have started a petition to save the Pikpa camp. If you would like to find out more and sign the petition, please visit: http://bit.ly/1ZVGG4

News (4.4.16)

Migrant crisis: Greece starts deportations to Turkey( BBC link)

British judge says trial of Channel Tunnel refugee will go ahead (BBC, link): "A judge refused on Friday to halt the criminal damage trial of a refugee from Darfur who walked through the Channel Tunnel in one of the most dramatic attempts to reach Britain since Europe's migration crisis began.

Abdul Haroun's case has prompted debate in Britain between critics who want him prosecuted to deter others from attempting the 50-km walk through the railway tunnel from France, and supporters who say he should be free to start a new life."

EU refugee expulsion plan under fire from UN (FT, link): “Across Greece numerous aspects of the systems for receiving and dealing with people who may need international protection are either not working or absent,” the UN told reporters in Geneva."

Dispatches: Asylum Seekers Stuck Outside Transit Zones in Hungary (HRW, link): “The [Hungarian] police haven’t given us information, they [authorities] haven’t even spoken to us but the UN has told us to be patient…there is no system for admission, they just pick people at random.”

As temperatures rise, so too will the refugee death toll (independent.ie, link): " This is the time of year when the bodies begin to wash up on the sandy beaches of western Libya. During winter, rough weather conditions make the Mediterranean crossing from Libya more difficult for those desperate for a new life in Europe. The flow never stops completely, and with the approach of better spring weather and calmer seas, more rickety boats crammed with migrants will set off. "

Greece begins migrant deportations to Turkey (euobserver, link): "Greece has returned the first migrants to Turkey under an EU deal to ease the flow of people into Europe. According to the vice-mayor of Lesbos, 136 people left the island on Monday (4 April). He said they were mostly from Pakistan, according to the BBC. nother ferry from the island of Chios is also expected to leave later."

Greece and Turkey ready first refugee returns under EU deal (euractiv, link): "Greece is making final preparations to return hundreds of asylum seekers to Turkey, the first to be sent back under a landmark EU deal that has been slammed by human rights watchdogs."

EU to announce overhaul of ‘Dublin rules’ for asylum seekers (euractiv, link): "The EU will unveil plans to overhaul its asylum system this week following a controversial migrant deal with Turkey. But the proposals look set to trigger fresh rows in a bloc already deeply divided by the refugee crisis."

EU-Turkey refugee deal: staff shortages and rights concerns pose twin threat (Guardian, linkl): "Greece calls for 20-fold increase in asylum officials as campaigners accuse Turkey of expelling refugees back to Syria"

Greece insists refugee deportations will begin despite doubts over EU-Turkey deal (Guardian, link): "Operation due to begin on Monday on islands of Lesbos and Chios, but questions remain as to how it will be implemented,,,, Opposition to the accord was underscored by Peter Sutherland, the UN secretary general’s special representative for international migration and development, who said on Saturday that collective deportations would automatically be deemed illegal if asylum applications weren’t properly considered."

A Syrian Refugee’s Message to the European Union (The New York Times, link): "WHEN we first got here we had money to buy a little food. Now it’s gone. We stand in line for hours for a sandwich. My husband told a journalist recently: “People are fed up. Maybe tomorrow they will break down the gate and flood across the border.” The journalist said, “How many weapons do you have?” If we knew how to carry weapons or wanted to carry weapons we would not have fled Syria. We want peace. We are sick of killing.

We fled a war, and now the European Union is making war against us, a psychological war. When we hear rumors that we’ll be let into Europe, we celebrate. These leaders give us new hope, then they extinguish it. Why did you open the door to refugees? Why did you welcome people? If they had stopped it before, we would not have come. We would not have risked death, me and my children, and thousands of others, to make the crossing."

Bulgaria's vigilante migrant 'hunter' (BBC News, link): "A Bulgarian trader in spare parts for buses has become a national celebrity after starting to patrol the Turkish border "hunting" for migrants. Many Bulgarians applaud his vigilante initiative, though others are deeply troubled.

"Bulgaria needs people like me, dignified Bulgarians, willing to defend their homeland," says Dinko Valev, sipping a fresh-squeezed orange juice in a flashy cafe in his hometown, Yambol, 50km (30 miles) from Bulgaria's border with Turkey."

Profile: 500 years of Venice's Jewish ghetto (The National, link): "A POIGNANT plea on behalf of the mostly Muslim refugees seeking safety in Europe has been made by Jews marking the 500th anniversary of the world’s first ghetto on Tuesday march 29.

The remarkable call for patience and integration comes as preparations are finalised for a series of cultural events to commemorate those who lived in the ghetto, which was created in Venice on March 29, 1516, to keep the Jews separate from the mainly Christian population.

While there is no doubt the early inhabitants suffered from the segregation, over time they became integrated into the Italian community, contributing greatly to the cultural life of the country.

Now the Jews of Venice believe their history has lessons for Europe as it shows that minorities can integrate while still preserving their identity."

The refugee crisis through the eyes of refugees (Al Jazeera, link): "In December 2015, photographer Kevin McElvaney started the #RefugeeCameras project, which would allow refugees to document their own journey with single-use cameras, giving them the opportunity to tell the world their own story. McElvaney travelled along the refugee track from Izmir to Lesbos, Athens and Idomeni. At all these stations he met refugees, collected their stories and handed out cameras, some of which were returned in a pre-paid envelope. McElvaney received seven of 15 cameras back with images that show a rare glimpse into the refugee route."

EU-Turkey refugee deal: Amnesty team to visit Greek islands as returns begin (AI, link): " Amnesty International will send a delegation to Lesvos and Chios in the coming days to monitor the situation as the EU-Turkey refugee deal is set to be implemented, including the expected mass returns of those who attempt to cross the Aegean Sea. Amnesty has called the deal “a historic blow to human rights” and has researched and campaigned extensively on its broad human rights implications in both Greece and Turkey. The returns in particular are a flagrant violation of EU and international law, making a mockery of the global Refugee Convention."

Teenage refugee killed in lorry crash while attempting to reach family in UK (Guardian, link): "Mohammed Hussain, 18, becomes first casualty of crisis in Britain this year while fleeing Dunkirk camp en route to Manchester."

Turkish coastguard halts migrants as preparations for EU deal begin (Reuters, link): "Turkey's coastguard stopped nearly 200 people trying to reach Greece on Saturday, underlining the challenge security forces face in convincing migrants contemplating the voyage that they will not be allowed to enter the EU. A controversial European Union deal to return refugees and migrants who landed on the Greek islands in the last fortnight to Turkey is due to take force on Monday."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (1.4.16)
Turkey steps up preparations for receiving migrants returned from Greece

A camp for 5,000 people is reportedly being built in western Turkey as the country apparently prepares to receive 72,000 migrants to be returned from Greece on Monday 4 April as part of the EU-Turkey deal.

Turkish Red Crescent to build first migrant readmission camp in western Turkey (Hurriyet Daily News, link): "A camp with a capacity of 5,000 people will be built in the western province of Manisa to accommodate migrants readmitted to Turkey, Turkish Red Crescent Deputy Chair Kerem Kinik has said.

“We are conducting work for the construction of a camp with a capacity of 5,000 people to host the refugees in our country under humanitarian conditions and to provide for their needs,” Kinik told Anadolu Agency."

And: Turkey prepares to receive 72,000 immigrants from Greece (Middle East Monitor, link): "Turkey is preparing to receive 72,000 illegal immigrants who have been deported from Greece. Turkish Akhbar Turkiya newspaper reported that the Immigration Department will construct a centre for the refugees in the Delek region in Izmir during the next ten days.

The immigrants will be relocated inside camps in the Greek island of Medley before being transferred to Delek from 4 April, the paper reported.

Sources in the Turkish Refugees Department said the immigrants will be offered identity cards and will have their fingerprints taken within 24 hours of their arrival, they will then be able to stay in the camps or join their relatives in Turkey."

EU-TURKEY: Returns under "one-for-one" plan to start on 4 April as evidence emerges of forced returns from Turkey to Syria

The European Commission foresees returns from Greece to Turkey under the controversial "one-for-one" plan starting on Monday 4 April, if changes to Greek and Turkish legislation can be rushed through by then. The credibility of claims that Turkey is a safe third country has been challenged yet again, this time with evidence gathered by Amnesty International that refugees have been forcibly returned from Turkey to Syria. Yesterday, press reports claimed that the Turkish military were shooting dead people attempting to enter Turkey from Syria.

Returns to Turkey from Greece through EU’s 1:1 scheme to commence April 4th (New Europe, link): "The European Commission has said that returns from Greece to Turkey will commence on April 4. Greece has tabled the draft bill which will allow for the implementation of the 1:1 bilateral return scheme between Greece and Turkey. Monday remains a reachable target date for the “new deal” implementation kick-start, said the European Commission’s spokesperson for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Natasha Bertaud. However, if national legislation does not change until Monday, the deal won’t be implemented on Monday.

In terms of the necessary legislation changes in Turkey, EU sources point at a meeting of the Turkish side with the Greek side under the EU coordinator of the EU-Turkey statement, Maarten Verwey, that took place on Wednesday. “The changes will be made in time”, added the EU source, repeating that for the time being, the 1:1 scheme is only applied to Syrians under the need of international protection. Turkey seems to be under pressure by the European Commission, in order to expand temporary protection that covers Syrians, to other nationalities, such as Afghans that originate from conflict zones."

Meanwhile: Turkey: Illegal mass returns of Syrian refugees expose fatal flaws in EU-Turkey deal (Amnesty International, link): "New research carried out by the organization in Turkey’s southern border provinces suggests that Turkish authorities have been rounding up and expelling groups of around 100 Syrian men, women and children to Syria on a near-daily basis since mid-January. Over three days last week, Amnesty International researchers gathered multiple testimonies of large-scale returns from Hatay province, confirming a practice that is an open secret in the region." And see: Amnesty says Turkey illegally sending Syrians back to war zone (EurActiv, link)

A brief overview of the proposed new Greek asylum law can be found here: Greek Parliament Prepares New Law on Asylum (News That Moves, link): "Greece is preparing legal amendments needed to implement the EU-Turkey Agreement of March 19.

A new law “Common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection” was tabled on Wednesday night in the Greek parliament.

The law is expected to be discussed today [31 March] and voted tomorrow [1 April] by the Greek parliament."

The UN has called for "immediate safeguards" to be put in place before any returns take place. See: UNHCR urges immediate safeguards to be in place before any returns begin under EU-Turkey deal (UNHCR, link)

And: reports that Turkish military are killing refugees as they try to cross the Syrian-Turkish border: Turkey shoots dead Syrian refugees crossing the border as they flee civil war (Mirror, link)

Amid Their Own Crisis, Greeks Stand by Refugees (Refugees Deeply, link): "A product of Greece’s social solidarity movement that arose in the aftermath of a debilitating economic crisis, Platanos is a self-organized Greek group that has been assisting refugees in Greece. As major NGOs pull out from Lesbos to avoid complicity in the mass expulsion of refugees under the E.U.-Turkey deal, Platanos will stay put"

News (31.3.16)

AUSTRIA: 25 attacks on refugee facilities last year in Austria (The Local, link): "Asylum facilities in Austria came under attack 25 times last year, including being set on fire and refugees being shot at with an air gun.

The number of attacks was revealed following a data request made to the Interior Ministry by the Green party justice spokesperson Albert Steinhauser.

Incidents took place in all but one of the country’s provinces, with Burgenland witnessing no attacks and Carinthia seeing the most with seven."

Austrian etiquette explained to refugees (The Local, link): " Newly arrived asylum seekers in Austria are being given a helping hand to navigate their new home by a pocket book explaining the do's and don'ts of Austrian life.

The book - which was produced by the Red Cross with the support of state broadcaster ORF - explains some of the etiquettes and cultural habits of Austrians."

Greek island stabbings raise UN fears over EU migrant deportation deal (The Telegraph, link): "Three migrants were stabbed on the Greek islands of Lesbos and Samos on Thursday night, deepening UN concerns over the viability of the controversial EU-Turkey to deport thousands of illegal immigrants back to Turkey.

The United Nations repeated its demands for legal safeguards to be put in place before refugees are returned to Turkey warning that conditions in Greece - where more than 5,000 refugees are now corralled in holding camps on the Greek islands - are rapidly deteriorating."

Hungary FM: Unchecked Migration Increases Risk of Terror (Foreign Policy, link): "Last September, as tens of thousands of desperate migrants and refugees flooded into Hungary from Serbia, Hungarian police who were deployed to the border refused to let many of them in, greeting them instead with tear gas and water cannons to push them back from where they had come.

That use of force was widely criticized: Human rights groups condemned it as a violation of Budapest’s international obligations to asylum-seekers, and neighboring Austria likened Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s policies to Nazism.

But seven months and two terrorist attacks on European soil later, Hungarian officials feel vindicated by their tough stance on migration. Now, they say, Budapest was wrongly chastised for sounding the alarm bell on the dangers of unregulated mass migration months ago.

In an exclusive interview with Foreign Policy in Washington on Thursday, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó said Hungary was right to look with suspicion at the masses of people demanding entry from Serbia — especially in the wake of this month’s terrorist attacks in Brussels."

Poland will examine refugee requests: Foreign Minister (Radio Poland, link): "Poland will closely examine the applications of refugees interested in staying in Poland, said the country's Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski.

Minister Waszczykowski added that the country will thoroughly check the identity of asylum seekers and try to ascertain that applicants are not a threat to national security.

Speaking to national broadcaster TVP, Waszczykowski said: “We declared that we will closely select refugees. International law applies to us and we reiterate that we will closely observe it.

"If we find refugees who will document their identity, and local authorities are able to document that they do not threaten Poland, and [the refugees] want to come to Poland, then we will consider their applications to stay in the country.”"

SWEDEN: 'We must take our country back': On patrol with Nationell Framtid, the PIRATE migrant hunters who patrol the North Sea in a SPEEDBOAT to stop refugees getting into Sweden through the 'back door' (Daily Mail, link): "Dennis Ljung, 31, leads the patrol – his far right group the Nationell Framtid - translated as National Future - emerged in April last year during the migrant crisis.

‘We need to take our country back. Our aim is to cleanse our nation free of all immigrants. What we do out on the ocean is just a small step to stop more the mass immigration we have faced for decades,’ he told MailOnline.

While he is heavily in debt and unemployed, Dennis is one of the few members of the group without a criminal record according to local media reports. At least 11 members have reportedly been convicted for weapons offences and several violent crimes.

He dismisses allegations the organisation has neo-Nazi sympathies despite also admitting that ‘of course’ they are in touch with the Soldiers of Odin – a gang of violent white supremacist vigilantes patrolling Finland's streets to ‘prevent migrant sex attacks’."

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

Statewatch home page | Observatory home page | Archives: 2016: Mar, Feb, Jan | 2015: Oct-Dec, Jan-Sep

Statewatch does not have a corporate view, nor does it seek to create one, the views expressed are those of the author. Statewatch is not responsible for the content of external websites and inclusion of a link does not constitute an endorsement.

© Statewatch ISSN 1756-851X. Personal usage as private individuals/"fair dealing" is allowed. We also welcome links to material on our site. Usage by those working for organisations is allowed only if the organisation holds an appropriate licence from the relevant reprographic rights organisation (eg: Copyright Licensing Agency in the UK) with such usage being subject to the terms and conditions of that licence and to local copyright law.