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

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

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

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November 2018

Are You Syrious (15.11.18, link):

FEATURE

"A total of 81 people continue to refuse to disembark a commercial container ship in the Libyan port of "Misrata, claiming that Libya is too dangerous.

They were picked up by the vessel, which was loaded with cars, late on Friday after they were spotted on a flimsy raft out at sea. Only 14 people have been evacuated so far, according to IOM. Those that remain on board are protesting their return to Libyan detention centres. They have been on board now for six consecutive days.

MSF have been providing medical care on the vessel. They report there is a seventeen-year-old Sudanese boy on board whose brother and friend died in the hands of smugglers in Tripoli." (...)

Vulnerable refugees’ transfer to Greek mainland continues (ekathimerini.com, link):

"More than 600 asylum seekers have been moved from Samos, Lesvos, Chios and Kos to the mainland since Saturday, as part of the Migration Policy Ministry’s ongoing operation to ease overcrowding on the islands ahead of winter.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 16,500 asylum seekers considered vulnerable have been included in the operation."

Statewatch comment: Official Greek Ministry figures (13.11.18) show there are still 19,409 reugees on the Greek islands - including 9,428 on Lesvos and 5,228 on Samos.

Cruel European migration policies leave refugees trapped in Libya with no way out (AI, link);

"Findings published by the organization today highlight how EU member states’ policies to curb migration, as well as their failure to provide sufficient resettlement places for refugees, continue to fuel a cycle of abuse by trapping thousands of migrants and refugees in appalling conditions in Libyan detention centres.

“One year after video footage showing human beings being bought and sold like merchandise shocked the world, the situation for refugees and migrants in Libya remains bleak,” said Heba Morayef, Middle East and North Africa Director for Amnesty International."

The effectiveness of the right to family reunion of refugees: An analysis of the K. & B. ruling of the CJEU (EU Law Analysis, link):

"how must the Member States deal with applications for family reunification by beneficiaries of international protection which are lodged after this three months period? This is essentially the question in Case C-380/17 K. & B., that was submitted to the Court of Justice of the EU (the Court) for a preliminary ruling by the Council of State – the Dutch court of highest instance in immigration matters."

EU auditors praise refugee assistance to Turkey despite irregularities (euractiv, link):

"The Facility for Refugees in Turkey “swiftly” addressed people’s needs, stated a report by the European Court of Auditors published on Tuesday (13 October), but stressed there were some irregularities in tracking the EU funds."

Two people die after boat capsizes off coast of Turkey (RTE, link):

"Two people, including a child, have died after their boat sank off Turkey's western coast. The Turkish coastguard said that a search was underway to find 10 others.

It said one migrant had been rescued after two others swam to shore not far from the coastal town of Dikili in Izmir province.

Initial testimonies from the survivors revealed that the boat was carrying 15 migrants, 14 Afghans and one Iranian, the coastguard said in a statement."

Six EU countries – and counting – back out from the global migration pact (euractiv, link):

"Bulgaria has become the sixth EU country after Hungary, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic and Croatia to signal that it will not sign the global migration agreement at a ceremony in Morocco in December.

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration was approved in July by all 193 UN member nations except the United States, which had backed out last year."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (6-12.11.18)
The Case of the Administrative Arrangement on Asylum-Seekers between Greece and Germany: A tale of “paraDublin activity”? (EU Law Analysis, link):

"In mid-August 2018 Germany, Greece and Spain agreed on the sketchy details of the initial migration compromise deal that was reached on the sidelines of the EU Summit in Brussels late June 2018. In this context, the Ministers on Migration of Germany and Greece reaffirmed their commitment by exchange of letters, to work towards common European solutions and to avoid any unilateral measure with respect to migration and asylum.

...in the present case, it is the first time that a readmission agreement, is concluded by Greece through an exchange of letters between Ministers. Though such an agreement is totally valid and binding under international law, the fact that it not only deals with international relations and migration policy but ultimately with human rights, is concluded away from parliamentary scrutiny and procedures - without even been published in the Government Gazette - raises important concerns on transparency and the rule of law."

See: EU: Publication of: The Administrative Arrangement between Greece and Germany on asylum-seekers (RSA, link)

UK: Campsfield House immigration removal centre to close - statement from the Campaign to Close Campsfield

The UK government has announced that the Campsfield House immigration detention centre will close by 2019, when the contract with outsourcing company Mitie Care and Custody expires. Campsfield has an official maximum capacity of 282 people. The closure is a response to the Shaw review into the welfare of vulnerable people in detention. What follows is a statement by Bill MacKeith, joint organiser of the long-standing Campaign to Close Campsfield.

UK: Legal victory protects patients by pulling doctors out of Government’s hostile environment (Liberty, link):

"A backroom deal allowing the Home Office to request patient data from the NHS to target people for deportation has been scrapped following a legal challenge.

The agreement gave the Home Office access to confidential patient information to aid immigration enforcement. It was written in secret before being published in January 2017.

Migrants’ Rights Network (MRN), represented by human rights organisation Liberty and Matrix Chambers, took legal action against the arrangement because it violated patient confidentiality, discriminated against non-British patients and left seriously unwell people fearful of seeking medical care."

Are You Syrious (8.11.18, link)

FEATURE: Hundreds demonstrate as seven protesters in France face 10 years in prison and 750,000 € in fines for ‘aiding illegal immigration and organized gangs’

"On April 22, 2018, a spontaneous demonstration that crossed the border between Italy and France took place against an organised group of people who were ‘guarding’ the border at Colle della Scala and preventing people from crossing to France."

EU: I don't claim to know what it's like to live as a refugee, but in Moria I would lose my sanity (Guardian, link):

"In this camp I saw people who are accountants, farmers, musicians, sons, daughters. Just like you and me."

Asylum seekers appealing returns must get own travel documents (euobserver, link):

"People refused asylum in Europe may be asked to get their own travel documents at embassies even during appeal, posing risks to themselves and their families.

The proposal follows a revision of the EU's directive on returns, announced in September by the European Commission as part of a broader effort to remove failed asylum seekers.(...)"

European Parliament study: The future relationship between the UK and the EU in the field of international protection following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU (pdf):

"More specifically, this analysis presents the current situation with regard to UK–EU cooperation in the field, the legal standards that will be applicable to the UK following its withdrawal, the areas of common interest in the field and the potential forms of future cooperation."

Trans-Europe Express – Migration still tops EU’s agenda (euractiv, link):

"The numbers may have fallen dramatically – by October the number of migrants reaching Europe had dropped to around 80,000 so far this year, compared to 300,000 in 2016 – but European leaders are still preoccupied with migration control. (...)

The African Union and North African countries appeared to shoot down the blueprint agreed by European leaders at the June Council summit to establish ‘regional disembarkation platforms’ or ‘hot spots’. (...)

But abandoning the idea of trying to persuade African countries to host migrant camps on their territories that does not mean that the ‘cash for migrant-control’ deal is dead. Far from it. Talks are underway to achieve similar ends via different means."

UK: Stansted protesters believed deportees were at risk of death, court told (The Guardian, link):

"Fifteen people on trial for blocking the takeoff of an immigration removal charter flight from Stansted were acting to protect the human rights of passengers who were at risk of persecution, torture, serious injury or death if they were deported, a court has heard.

At the opening of their defence at Chelmsford crown court on Monday, the defendants began making the case that they had acted out of conscience to protect those on the flight not just from persecution in their destination countries, but also from abuse of process in the UK.

All 15 are on trial for endangering the safety of an aerodrome by chaining themselves together around a Titan Airways flight chartered by the Home Office to remove 60 people to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone. If convicted, the maximum possible sentence is life in prison."

EU: Publication of: The Administrative Arrangement between Greece and Germany on asylum-seekers (RSA, link):

"The Administrative Arrangement between Ministry of migration Policy of the Hellenic Republic and the Federal Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Germany has been implemented already to four known cases. It has been the product of bilateral negotiations that occurred after German Chancellor Merkel faced another political crisis at home regarding the handling of the refugee issue.

The document which has been the product of undisclosed negotiations and has not been made public upon its conclusion is a brief description of the cooperation of Greek and German authorities in cases of refusal of entry to persons seeking protection in the context of temporary checks at the internal German-Austrian border, as defined in its title. It essentially is a fast track implementation of return procedures in cases for which Dublin Regulation already lays down specific rules and procedures. The procedures provided in the ‘Arrangement’ skip all legal safeguards and guarantees of European Legislation.

RSA and PRO ASYL have decided to publicize the document of the Arrangement for the purpose of serving public interest and transparency."

EU: Council Presidency calls for action on "secondary movement" of refugees

The Austrian Council Presidency has circulated a Note to the Strategic Committee on immigration, Frontiers and Asylum (SCIFA) on: Secondary movements (LIMITE doc no: 13353-18, pdf) which seeks to monitor the movement of refugees from the country of arrival northwards - particularly from Greece and Italy - to other EU Member States

EU set to test AI guards to protect external borders (euractiv, link):

"An EU-funded project is developing an ‘intelligent control system’ to test third-country nationals who reach the EU’s external borders, including a sophisticated analysis of their facial gestures.

The Intelligent Portable Border Control System, iBorderCtrl, is a series of multiple protocols and computer procedures which are meant to scan faces and flag ‘suspicious’ reactions of travellers who lie about their reasons for entering the Schengen area."

And see: EU border 'lie detector' system criticised as pseudoscience - Technology that analyses facial expressions being trialled in Hungary, Greece and Latvia (Guardian, link):

"The EU has been accused of promoting pseudoscience after announcing plans for a “smart lie-detection system” at its busiest borders in an attempt to identify illegal migrants.

The “lie detector”, to be trialled in Hungary, Greece and Latvia, involves the use of a computer animation of a border guard, personalised to the traveller’s gender, ethnicity and language, asking questions via a webcam."

CoE: Greece should safeguard social rights for all and improve the reception and integration of migrants (link);

"Greece should take urgent steps and adopt long-term policies to improve the reception and integration of migrants and to reverse the adverse effects of austerity measures on access to health care and education”, says Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, publishing the report on her visit to Greece carried out in June."

See: Report (pdf)

Greece: Rescuers at Sea Face Baseless Accusations - Prosecution Seeks to Criminalize Saving Lives (HRW, link):

"The criminal accusations brought by Greek prosecutors against activists for their efforts to rescue migrants and asylum seekers at sea appear entirely unfounded, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch analyzed court records and other documents in the cases of two of the four activists currently in pretrial detention.

The two foreign volunteers Sarah Mardini, 23, and Sean Binder, 24, have been detained for more than two months. Two Greek nationals are also in pretrial detention, including Nassos Karakitsos, 37, who was arrested a week after Mardini and Binder. Their detention followed a police investigation and a prosecutor’s accusations that misrepresent humanitarian search and rescue operations as people smuggling by an organized crime ring. Greek judicial authorities should drop the baseless accusations and release them from pretrial detention."

EU lowers its ambitions on African migration control (euractiv, link):

"At the June Council summit in Brussels, EU leaders asked the Commission to study ways to set up “regional disembarkation platforms” in North African countries, including Tunisia, for migrants rescued by European vessels in the Mediterranean.

That demand didn’t last very long.

Within days of the summit, Morocco and the African Union led continent-wide rejection to the EU’s idea of setting up ‘regional disembarkation platforms’ or ‘hot spots’ on their territories."


Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (25.10-5.11.18) including:

UK admits only 20 unaccompanied child refugees in two years - New figures reveal paltry number of minors granted entry under scheme that was meant to resettle 3,000 (The Observer, link):

"Only 20 unaccompanied children have been allowed into the UK under a scheme begun more than two years ago to resettle 3,000 vulnerable refugee children from conflict zones in the Middle East and north Africa.

Figures obtained by the Observer reveal the paltry number of minors permitted to come to the UK under the Home Office’s Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme (VCRS), announced in April 2016. This is the only way for unaccompanied youngsters from outside Europe to legally move to the UK."

EU border 'lie detector' system criticised as pseudoscience - Technology that analyses facial expressions being trialled in Hungary, Greece and Latvia (Guardian, link):

"The EU has been accused of promoting pseudoscience after announcing plans for a “smart lie-detection system” at its busiest borders in an attempt to identify illegal migrants.

The “lie detector”, to be trialled in Hungary, Greece and Latvia, involves the use of a computer animation of a border guard, personalised to the traveller’s gender, ethnicity and language, asking questions via a webcam."

From market integration to core state powers : the Eurozone crisis, the refugee crisis and integration theory (EUI, Florence, link):

"The Eurozone crisis and the refugee crisis are showcases of the problems associated with the EU’s shift from market integration to the integration of core state powers."

Are You Syrious (1.11.18,link):

Feature: Winter is coming: Conditions are only going to worsen on Greek Islands

"Winter is on everyone’s mind with the crowded conditions on the Greek islands only getting worse. 611 people arrived on the islands last week while only 495 people were transferred to the mainland. Alongside growing tensions and a lack of resources in and around the camps, racist attacks against refugees have increased. Officials on Samos, Chios, and Lesvos have all used extremist language recently."

See also: Tensions mount in migrant camps on mainland too (ekathimerini.com, link) And as of 31.10.18 there were 20,882 refugees on the Greek islands according to Greek Ministry.

The human cost of Europe’s migration policy (The Economist, link):

"a deal struck in March 2016 between the EU and Turkey. Before it, thousands were arriving on Greece’s easternmost islands every day. Turkey agreed, under the deal, to try to stop the boats and to accept unsuccessful asylum-seekers deported from the Greek islands."

Hungary’s top court clears journalist who kicked refugees (euractiv. link):

"The Supreme Court in Hungary, a country known for its tough stance on migration, has cleared of all charges the camerawoman who kicked refugees live on camera at the Serbia-Hungary border in 2015."

EU commission 'regrets' Austria rejecting UN migration pact (euobserver, link):

"The European Commission said on Wednesday it regrets Austria's decision not to sign a UN global migration pact. "We regret the decision that the Austrian government has taken. We continue to believe that migration is a global challenge," said a spokeswoman. The pact was approved by 193 countries. Austria now joins Hungary and the US in refusing to back the non-binding pact, to be signed in Morocco in December."

October 2018

ITALY: Beyond closed ports: the new Italian Decree-Law on Immigration and Security (EU Immigration and Asylum Law and Policy, link):

"Whilst the number of arrivals to Italy is at the lowest level registered in the past few years, the phenomenon of migration has reached the dimension of an emergency in the internal public debate, with the Decree-Law on Immigration and Security representing a major downturn in the architecture of the Italian system of protection.

The implementation of further grounds for exclusion and withdrawal of protection, the reduction of procedural guarantees, and the general restrictive approach on the rights of migrants and asylum seekers adopted in the Decree generate serious concerns. Above all, some of the provisions contained in the Decree may entail a risk of violation of the principle of non–refoulement... What is more, some of the changes introduced with the Decree might have far-reaching practical consequences on the rights of the migrants who are already present or will arrive in the country. In particular, the repeal of ‘humanitarian’ residence permits, which have been widely used in the past years, is likely to have the unintended side-effect of increasing the number of migrants who will find themselves in an irregular situation. The new bill has been presented by the Interior Minister Matteo Salvini as ‘a step forward to make Italy safer’ – however it will arguably increase the number of cases of destitution, vulnerability, and exploitation.

It remains to be seen whether the Parliament will confirm the text of the Decree when ultimately converting it into law. However, considering that the time for discussion is limited (60 days only) it is doubtful that the bill will undergo substantial improvement."

European Parliament: Report with recommendations to the Commission on Humanitarian Visas (pdf):

"Parliament started to call for humanitarian visas against the background of the migration crisis and the unacceptable death toll in the Mediterranean. It has expressed its views, among others, in the resolution of 12.4.2016 on the situation in the Mediterranean and the need for a holistic EU approach to migration.

Humanitarian visas were already discussed in the EU context but without any concrete result. Currently, there are a number of targeted national programmes but no legal framework in EU law.

The LIBE Committee has tried to address this legal gap as part of the review of the Visa Code (2014/0094(COD)) but both Council and Commission have opposed the amendments included in this regard in the trilogue negotiations which started in May 2016. In September 2017, after months of deadlock with the Council refusing to continue negotiations if these amendments were not withdrawn, Parliament’s negotiating team withdrew them. Instead the LIBE Committee decided to draw up this legislative own-initiative report.

Despite this step, Council and Commission discontinued the negotiations."

See: Humanitarian visas (European Parliament, link)

Statewatch Analysis: Decriminalising solidarity by promoting the regularisation of migrants (pdf) by Fulvio Vassallo Paleologo (Osservatorio Solidarieta Carta di Milano):

Translation of a speech given by Fulvio Vassallo Paleologo (Osservatorio Solidarieta Carta di Milano) at the session ‘Decriminalizing Solidarity: an ever more topical challenge’, Sabir Festival, Palermo, 13 October 2018.

"The criminalisation of people and organisations that lend assistance to immigrants in Europe is an expression of the closure of legal or humanitarian entry routes and the growing difficulty of residing legally. The distinction between “economic migrants” and asylum seekers, the restriction of possibilities to enter to find employment and of the scope of the “European” right to asylum, and finally the agreements with third countries to externalise collective refoulement practices, produce a proliferation of cases resulting in illegality."

EU: Council Presidency seeks to implement "regional disembarkation centres" in third countries

The Austrian Council Presidency has produced a: Working Paper; Regional Disembarkation Arrangements (LIMITE doc no: WK 10084-REV 1-10, pdf) to launch the "initial phase of outreach" to third states in Africa to be undertaken::

"by interested Member States, e.g. by those who entertain privileged relationships with the respective third country" [emphasis throughout]

In other words for EU Member States to use their colonial past to put into effect the "swift exploration" of creating regional disembarkation "platforms."

Greece: NGO STATEMENT: The implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement is an insult for the human life and dignity (link):

" With regard to the intensification of the problems in the islands of Eastern Aegean, both concerning the inhumane living conditions for refugees and the alarming increase of incidents of racism and intolerance, that are taking place because of the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement, we repeat our standing position (...)"

CROATIA-BOSNIA: The violent reality of the EU border: police brutality in the Balkans (OpenDemocracy, link):

"As we write this article, refugees are being beaten, robbed and traumatised by Croatian police, while they attempt to claim asylum in the EU. Their clandestine journeys from Bosnia through to Italy, via Croatia and Slovenia, are referred to by refugees here as “the game”.

But for many of the displaced people we talked to in north-west Bosnia, the violence of the border is taking a heavy toll. Thanks to the flagrant human rights violations of Croatian police – with the tacit complicity of EU authorities - “the game” is no laughing matter."

EU Africa Relations: Tone Down the ‘Newness’ and Revisit History (ECRE, link):

"A potentially positive outcome of the EU’s two recent Summits is the focus on Africa with increased political and financial commitment, primarily through investment. Sometimes branded as a “Marshall Plan” for Africa, the same ideas appeared in President Juncker’s final State of the Union address."

EU camps in North Africa are pointless and illegal (press release, Andrej Hunko, pdf):

""The so-called disembarkation platforms remain nothing but hot air. Not one of the intended countries in North Africa has been asked, there is not even a diplomatic concept or timetable in the relevant EU Council working groups. And the Federal Government now only wants to talk about 'disembarkation agreements'", stated Andrej Hunko, European policy spokesman for the Left Party parliamentary group in the German Bundestag in reaction to a related response from the Federal Ministry of the Interior."

And see: Juncker says N.Africa migrant "camps" not on EU agenda (Thomas Reuters Foundation, link): "European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Friday that a suggestion that the European Union might try to set up migrant camps in North Africa was no longer on the agenda."

HUNGARY: Reinforcement of the southern borders because of nonexistent migratory pressure (Hungarian Spectrum, link):

"Since Gergely Gulyás, Viktor Orbán’s new chief-of-staff, has taken over, the so-called “government info” press conferences introduced by his predecessor János Lázár are held only every second Thursday. On the last such occasion, on October 25, Gulyás announced that, according to “the information of the Hungarian and European intelligence services, approximately 70,000 refugees are heading toward Hungary along the old Balkan route, and therefore the Hungarian government has offered assistance” to Croatia and has decided to reinforce the Croatian-Hungarian border.

...I looked high and low on the internet to find the 70,000 refugees heading toward Hungary but was unsuccessful. In fact, according to the UN Refugee Agency, only 26,548 refugees arrived in Greece in 2018. So, I suspect that Gergely Gulyás’s story of 70,000 migrants was another instance of purposeful disinformation intended to mislead Hungarians fearful of migrants...

Of course, this new “danger” requires more money for border defense. On the very same day that Gulyás announced the new danger coming from Croatia, the government approved another 24 billion forints “for the handling of the extraordinary migratory pressure” that had presented itself. Although since the fence was erected in September 2015 Hungary hasn’t had any “migratory pressure” to speak of, just in 2017 the Hungarian government spent 155.1 billion forints on border defense. Given the opacity in which the Orbán government operates, we don’t really know where these large sums of money have been and will be going."

Somali returned to Libya under Italian policy sets himself on fire (The Irish Times, link):

"A Somali man set himself on fire in a Libyan detention centre on Wednesday, according to fellow detainees and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

The man, who is in his late 20s, reportedly doused himself in petrol from a generator in the centre and lit it, after telling friends he had lost hope of being relocated to a safe country.

Sources told The Irish Times the man carried out the action after being told he had little chance of evacuation by visiting officials from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). The UNHCR said it was trying to verify this."

Are You Syrious (26.10.18, link)

FEATURE: Arrivals increased in 2017, but safety and security continues to plummet in Greece.

"According to Medicins du Monde, the number of people who have arrived in Greece in the first 9 months of 2018 is 17% higher than the same time frame for 2017. More than half of the arrivals were women and children. 76% of these were from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo."

Why refugee numbers in Switzerland are falling (swissinfo.ch,link):

"After a spike in 2016, asylum applications in Switzerland have been in steady decline. The tightening of Europe’s external borders has forced migrants to seek alternative routes to the continent – often more dangerous ones."

Migrants block Bosnian border, scuffle with Croatian police (euractiv, link):

"Several people were injured on Wednesday (24 October) as migrants demanding to cross Bosnia’s northwestern border threw stones at Croatian police who responded by firing teargas and using batons to push them back, a Reuters photographer at the scene said."

Why refugee numbers in Switzerland are falling (swissinfo.ch,link):

"After a spike in 2016, asylum applications in Switzerland have been in steady decline. The tightening of Europe’s external borders has forced migrants to seek alternative routes to the continent – often more dangerous ones."

Greece: Lesvos: Again – Three individuals removed from the deportation list Posted on 25. October 2018 by dm-aegean (link):

"On October 4th, 2018, the deportation of three migrants from Lesvos to Turkey – who did not get the possibility to exhaust their legal remedies in Greece – was stopped at the last minute.

Only three weeks later, on October 25th, the same three men were yet again transferred from the pre-removal prison of Moria camp to the police station prison of Mytilene in order to be deported.

The police carried out the transfer although several lawyers, the Ombuds Office and the UNHCR had been involved to halt the deportation three weeks before to ensure the right of the three men to file a subsequent asylum application.

Today, lawyers again successfully managed to intervene in the deportation process – after having been informed by activists who witnessed the transfer of the three men. 9 men – who probably did not have a lawyer to assist them at the last minute – were deported to Turkey."


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

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